How much added refined sugar can you eat or drink in a day and still maintain good health?
This is a great question because it’s unrealistic to say you’ll never eat another bite of chocolate cake or bowl of ice cream again. Keep in mind that it’s not the cake or ice cream itself that poses a risk for your health. It’s when you take enjoying these treats beyond moderation and make it a habit over time that it turns bad for your health.
So, to answer the question, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day. This equals 25 grams or 100 calories for women, and men should have no more than 9 teaspoons which equals 36 grams or 150 calories. This includes all forms of unhealthy sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup. Once you start looking at serving sizes and labels, you’ll find out that’s not much!
To put this in perspective, a 20-ounce bottle of soda usually has 16 teaspoons of sugar, a 20-ounce lemon-flavored iced tea has about 14.5 tablespoons of sugar, and a 20-ounce bottle of sports drink has around 7.5 teaspoons of sugar. So one soda blows your added sugar budget for the next few days.
The first step to sticking to your added sugar goals is to start monitoring your liquid sugar. Liquid sugar is toxic for your body for many reasons. First, it stimulates your hunger and has zero nutrient value. It also makes your body prone to store excess fat and increases insulin resistance, leaving you more susceptible to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Most people think it’s best to remove sugary drinks cold turkey, but that rarely works for most adults. What I’ve found most effective is to begin by cutting the volume or the frequency of the liquid sugar. For example, if you drink 20 ounces of sweet tea daily, reduce that to 10 ounces or keep the drink at 20 ounces but cut the sugar by half. The latter works best for most people. Allow your taste buds to adapt to less sugar, then cut it back again. It’s a process that works well to get you off highly sweetened beverages.
Monitoring your added sugar is an important step toward a healthier you. It’s easier than you think to make a profound impact on your health. It’s also common for some people to lose a substantial amount of weight with this single change alone.
If you’re anything like me, sometimes water gets a little dull and boring. As you transition your taste buds from the sugary drinks, spice things up and add some tasty water variations to your routine.
Here are two recipes for fruit- and herb-infused water:
Orange and Green Apple WaterQuarter one orange, spread some lemon juice on 4 slices of green apple, put the apple, the orange and the juice of half a lemon in a large pitcher. Fill half the pitcher with ice cubes and the rest with water. Refrigerate for 24 hours and enjoy.
Cucumber and Mint WaterCut 8 cucumber slices, smash a handful of fresh mint and put the cucumber and mint in a pitcher. Fill half of the pitcher with ice cubes and the rest with water. Refrigerate for 24 hours and enjoy.
Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.