Eating too much added sugar can contribute to obesity, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests you eat no more than 100 – 150 calories per day of added sugar, which is equal to about 6 teaspoons of table sugar. Those 100 – 150 calories are included in something called your discretionary calorie allowance. This is a small number of calories that can be used as “fun foods” or treats after you’ve eaten a balanced daily diet within your calorie intake.
What Is Added Sugar?:
The sweeteners and syrups that are added to foods, either during the manufacturing process or at the table, are considered to be added sugars. This doesn’t include sugars or starches that naturally occur in any types of foods.
How Much Added Sugar Is OK?:
A person who eats 2000 calories per day can use around 1850 calories for healthy meals and beverages, and save the remaining 150 calories for something a little more decadent. Discretionary calories are good because you can watch your weight without feeling deprived, however you have to be careful with portion sizes and not let that 150 calorie treat turn into 300, 400 or 500 calories. If you’re not sure how many calories you should be consuming every day, use our calorie calculator.
Where Is Added Sugar Located?:
You’ll find added sugars in sweet treats, processed foods (even foods that are not really sweet, like spaghetti sauce), and especially in sweetened breakfast cereal, cookies, cakes and soft drinks. One 12-ounce can of soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. You need to read the ingredients list on all of the packaged foods you buy in the grocery store. Look for sugar, sucrose, maltodextrose, high fructose corn syrup and honey on the label.
What About the Sugar In Fruits?:
Fruits naturally contain sugars, but they also contain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that your body needs. Fruits are not considered added sugars, and you should eat a cup or two of fruit every day. It is important to remember that calories from fruit juice can add up quickly — whole fruits are best.
What’s the Best Way to Use Discretionary Calories?:
It’s perfectly fine to indulge in a candy bar or a soft drink from time to time, but your body will appreciate the extra good nutrition you can get when you use your discretionary calories wisely. One little serving of sweetened flavored yogurt will give you additional calcium and healthy probiotic bacteria that you’re not going to get from a typical candy bar. Or, you can choose a small square of dark chocolate instead of a sugary soda. That dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, but when you drink a can of soda, all you get is extra sugar and calories.
Remember that you don’t have to give up sugar altogether – it’s OK to have a little each day, unless you’ve been otherwise directed by your doctor. Just keep within your daily discretionary calorie allowance.