How much sugar should you consume on a daily basis?
Well, according to leading health organizations, the answer is not all that much. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)
While the World Health Organization strongly recommends that no more than 10 percent of your daily calories come from what they call “free sugars”*, they state that further reduction to no more than 5 percent of your daily calories would “provide further health benefits.”1 For reference, the majority of adults are at 13 percent or more!2
(FYI, many governments and health organizations worldwide have ignored the World Health Organization’s 10 percent figure, stating instead that 5 percent is the upper limit. In other words, they’re suggesting the less sugar, the better.)
If you eat 2,000 calories a day, the 5 percent recommendation allows for 25g of free sugars a day, and the 10 percent recommendation allows for 50g of free sugars a day. (FYI, there are four calories in each gram of sugar.)
To give you an idea of how these numbers translate into food, a single twelve-ounce soda contains 36g of free sugars. Yep, with one little soda (depending on your calorie intake and percentage recommendation followed), you’ve already blown your entire sugar quota for the day—or you’re darn close.3 Ooof.
Say you’re what most would consider a healthy eater—you’re even gluten-free! Here’s another way to blow your sugar quota. Let’s start with breakfast:
Gluten-free toaster pastry = 10g free sugars
One banana = 0g free sugars
Eight ounces of orange juice = 22g free sugars
If you’re following the 5 percent recommendation and taking in about 2,000 total calories per day, you’re officially done. You didn’t even get past breakfast! If you’re going for their 10 percent recommendation, you can just about reach that by consuming a tablespoon of honey throughout the rest of the day. A little honey in your tea, a little honey drizzled on your yogurt, a little honey spread on a slice of (gluten-free, since that’s the example I gave) toast … needless to say, that tablespoon will go quickly.
Note that the banana—a whole fruit—does not contain free sugars, but the orange juice does.
You might also like to know that the American Heart Association’s sugar guidelines align closely to the World Health Organization’s 5 percent recommendation. For most women, they suggest that daily sugar intake should be capped at 25g of “added sugars” (their term for “free sugars”), and, for most men, 37.5g.4 (This figure varies slightly based on your daily caloric needs.)
If you’re over there thinking, “OH MY GOD! I HAVE TO CUT OUT ALL SUGAR NOW!” or “OH MY GOD! I HAVE TO CHANGE MY SUGAR CONSUMPTION IMMEDIATELY!”—relax. You don’t.
When it comes to this sugar thing, it’s better to be the tortoise, not the hare, especially if you’re coming from a sugar-heavy diet. The good news is I’m here to help you out. 🙂 Learning how to eat less sugar is a skill that anyone can develop, and the rewards can be pretty amazing (more energy, better skin, and weight loss, to name a few).
Want to know how much sugar your kids should eat per day?
Check out this post!