How much sugar do you eat?
How much sugar are we supposed to eat?
My parents were pioneers on this subject, especially my mom. She grew up on a farm in Washington. Her dad logged the trees to build their house and forged his own tools. He and my grandmother raised cattle, grew vegetables and fruit trees, churned butter, cooked on a wood stove, baked and canned. Processed sugar was a rare delicacy.
“People are eating too much sugar,” my mom declared, often, starting in the 1960’s. She’d lived a fine life with few sweets. She used to cut the sugar in half when she baked cookies. (They were pretty good.)
It’s a hard example to follow. Sugar is cheap, plentiful, and delicious. There was a time when I tried not to eat any added sugar; then I stopped worrying about it. There were a lot of convenient reasons not to worry. We need sugar to live. The best part of cake is the frosting. Different people process it differently and who knew how much I needed? Trying to learn mechanics of absorption of sugar into the blood and insulin resistance put me to sleep.
But — my parents were right. Sugar-related health problems have skyrocketed. About 40% of Americans are obese. 10% of Americans, over 30 million people, have diabetes. According to the CDC, that number has jumped from about 4.5% since 1995. Cutting back on sugar doesn’t guarantee you won’t become overweight or get diabetes, but it significantly lowers the risk. Diabetes means a lifetime of watching every bite. Sometimes your toes fall off and you go blind.
So, how much sugar should we eat?
Women: 6 teaspoons, or about 25 grams per day
Men: 9 teaspoons, about 37 grams per day
That’s from all sugars, including fruit. For perspective: 12 ounces of Coke contains 36 grams of sugar.
How to control sugar intake? You probably already know how. Here’s what I try to do:
Cook from scratch.
Eat lots of fresh food.
Drink water, tea or any unsweetened beverage, instead of juice.
Add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to recipes.
Check the label on prepared foods.
Aim to limit sugars from prepared foods to 10 grams a day.
Cut back on sugar in recipes.
It’s probably better to get most sugar from complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans and fruit. The body eventually turns all carbohydrates into sugars. Fiber in complex carbohydrates helps slows spikes in blood sugar, giving the body more time to process and allowing for slower production of insulin — which is good.
In order to cut down on sugar in chocolate, which I love, I switched to a stevia-sweetened brand.
See? Not so bad.