Sugar is everywhere. From the obvious like cereal, soda, and the endless amounts of sweet snacks, to the not-so-obvious like ketchup, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, and protein powder. While some sugar doesn’t hurt, too much of it can lead to weight gain, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), dental issues, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammation, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
How Much Sugar Should You be Eating?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men per day. Even with those recommendations, people are still eating a lot more than that. According to a study from the CDC, Americans eat an average of 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) a day!
So how are we eating so much sugar? Sugar is in way more foods than you think, whether it’s artificial or in plants or produce. Sugar hides behind several different aliases, which can be much harder to recognize in processed foods. Some manufacturers also use multiple kinds of sugar so other non-sugary ingredients appear higher on the list (nutrition labels list ingredients by weight, heaviest first).
With the large amount of sugar in foods, it’s also really easy to become dependent on sugar and seek out more sugary foods, which can also lead to exceeding the recommended daily intake.
How to Cut Down on Sugar
The easiest way to see if you’re eating foods high in sugar is to read the nutrition facts on your food. Check the serving size and the grams of sugar in that food. If it’s 10-20 grams of sugar in one serving, try something else that’s lower in sugar.
When you’re checking the ingredient label, sugar can be hiding in lots of different names. The following are all names for sugar that could be in your food:
Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low)
Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate
Stevia extracts (Pure Via, Truvia)
Processed Sugars Added into Foods
Brown Rice Syrup
Dehydrated Cane Juice
Evaporated Cane Juice
Fruit Juice Concentrate
High Fructose Corn Sugar
Raw Sugar Rice Syrup
Sugars on the Grocery Shelf
Brown Rice Syrup
Dark Brown Sugar
Granulated Sugar (cane or beet)
Honey (refined and raw)
Light Brown Sugar
Turbinado Sugar (demerara or muscovado)
The next time you’re out shopping or just looking through your pantry, pull up these lists to see if the food you’re looking at had sugar in them, even if it’s not a sweet food. If it’s high in sugar or has a lot of sugars in the ingredient list, or if it’s got high sugar content in one serving or lots of sugars in it, consider swapping that out for a lower sugar alternative. Depending on what food it is, you could also make it yourself and make a sugar-free or lower sugar version.
When buying sugars to sweeten foods, go with organic, minimally refined sugars like raw honey, pure maple syrup or use dates whole or pulse them up in a food processor to make a date paste. Sweetness never hurts, and a little can go a long way, especially in regards to your health and fitness goals.
Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Main Photo Credit: Sunny Forest/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Aaron Amat/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Oksana Shufrych/shutterstock.com