How much sugar?

How much sugar do you eat?

How much sugar are we supposed to eat?

Photo credit: Tanya Hart

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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 2.57.39 PM.png
Yikes. One banana = half my daily allotment.

In order to cut down on sugar in chocolate, which I love, I switched to a stevia-sweetened brand.

Stevia is sweeter than sugar, has zero calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar. Photo credit:  Andrea Michaela Trautmann


See? Not so bad.

Photo Credit: I.Hillesheim




  • Great article. Sugar is everywhere, isn’t it? And it’s so difficult to stay below those recommended numbers, especially with processed food. I admire people who have given it up completely. I haven’t been able to do that. I like to enjoy a treat, but in moderation. I use Stevia and/or Splenda in my tea, but now studies are showing that artificial sweeteners can raise insulin levels just like sugar does. Sigh. So it gets back to moderation, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I cut out more and more processed food all the time, and there’s lots of research too that points out how sugar can be related to cancer, and I am aiming to curb a recurrence as much as possible. And yet, I don’t believe in cutting anything out entirely. I still add a tablespoon to my morning coffee, but a few years ago, I used to add two. So at least that’s an improvement 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a whole extra tablespoon of sugar you can eat somewhere else! I’ve read about a possible correlation between sugar and cancer, too, but like you, don’t believe in cutting it out entirely. It’s too hard, and life is too short.

      Liked by 1 person

  • It really is like an addiction… long ago I, too, added sugar to my tea. Since I was drinking 3-4 cups a day, that amounted to a lot. I had to commit to 30 days without sugar in my tea until I really got over it.

    And it’s interesting to note that the total consumption includes “natural” fruit sugar. I always assumed that consuming the whole fruit–rather than just juice–would not be as problematic, because of the associated fiber and other components. But I guess that doesn’t mean you can gobble figs, raisins, and bananas with abandon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too. I didn’t count bananas and apples as real sugar. I don’t think I’m going to be able to keep my sugar consumption to 6 teaspoons a day, but I’ll at least try to keep it reasonable.


  • Can you tell me whether sucralose sweetener pills are any healthier than refined sugar? Obviously they don’t have the calories, but is the problem still present with them?


  • Great advice. I’m trying to eat less sugar. Although girl scout cookies are next to my desk and I will likely dip into another one shortly. Perhaps mid-comment. There that’s better. 🙂

    It’s clear from raising a child, just how addicting sugar is. Despite our best attempts to really limit sugar, it’s not long before they get that first lick of a lollipop and then bam, they are hooked. In fact I caught on video that first lick…and wow…I was like “Okay…he really likes his first taste of candy.” lol

    But yeah, the evolutionary attraction to sugar isn’t hard to understand, but the way a capitalistic society exploits that physiological drive for sugar is depressing. The falsified research on heart disease in the 70s, blaming fat instead of sugar, wasn’t surprising, but such incidences lower people’s confidences in science in general unfortunately. In general, nutrition is something easily hijacked by companies wanting to make money. I watched a TED talk the other day which was about a neuroscientist who had done a study that found low level of seratonin negatively impacted decision making, and suddenly article popped up out of nowhere that used this study to promote foods that had high level of seratonin as foods that helped you make better decisions. It was totally dishonest and based only on one study. It’s a difficult world for scientist to be publicly vocal about their science and not having that science be completely exploited for monetary gain.


  • I’ve written about this. No sugar in this house. There’s sorghum syrup, (brown) rice syrup, lucuma (fruit) powder, yes of course the stevia. So many options!


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