The World Health Organization (WHO) is proposing new guidelines for the consumption of sugar. Current recommendations, from 2002, limit sugar to less than 10 percent of total daily calories. The new draft guidelines recommend further reducing sugar to less than 5 percent of total daily calories for greater health benefits. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported in 2012, on average, adults consumed approximately 15 percent of their daily calories from sugar. Five percent equals about 25 grams (or six teaspoons) of sugar a day for an adult at a healthy weight.
The goal of the new guidelines is to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), with the main focus on preventing dental diseases and weight gain.
WHO is not alone--the American Heart Association, United States Department of Agriculture, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are just a few of the health organizations encouraging consumers to reduce their sugar intake.
Not only can sugar lead to dental decay and weight gain, but is also associated with blood sugar spikes, elevated triglycerides and an increased risk in cardiovascular disease.
WHO suggests limits on sugars that are "added to food by the manufacturer, the cook, or the consumer, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit concentrates."
According to the Mayo Clinic, desserts, sodas, and energy and sports drinks are the main sources of added sugar for most Americans. However, not all sugar consumed is in the form of sweets; it is often added, or hidden, in foods, drinks, sauces, and condiments. WHO explains, "For example, one tablespoon of ketchup contains around four grams (around one teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar." Sugar is added to many items not only to enhance flavor, but to give baked goods texture and color, balance acidity in dressings and condiments, help bread rise, etc.
To determine how many calories of sugar you are consuming, take the number of grams of sugar from the food label and multiply it by four. For example, a soda with 40 grams of sugar contains 160 calories from sugar.
Reducing Your Sugar
Use these tips to help you reduce your sugar intake.
Scale back: Cut back on the amount of sugar you use now, little by little. Instead, try flavoring foods with spices like ginger, allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
Quit the sugary beverages: Instead drink "sugar free" versions of sodas, juices, energy drinks or sports drinks. Or make infused water with fruit and/or herbs.
Use substitutions in recipes: Try unsweetened applesauce and extracts like almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
Watch cereals: If it looks like dessert, it's probably loaded with sugar. Instead look for a whole-grain cereal that you can sweeten with fruit.
Go for Greek or Lite: When buying yogurt, buy Greek or Lite, but watch for sugary additions like sugary cereal or fruit on the bottom.
Change specialty drinks: Many coffees and cocktails are loaded with sugar. Instead of a white chocolate mocha, try an Americano. Instead of a margarita, try a sugar free mixed drink or wine.
Investigate dressings, sauces, and condiments: Don't forget about the things you add to your foods. You may not use much, but even small servings can pack a punch.
Mandy Seay is a bilingual registered and licensed dietitian who holds both a bachelor's degree in nutrition and in journalism. After gaining 30 pounds while living abroad, Mandy worked to lose the weight and regain her health. It was here that she discovered her passion for nutrition and went on to pursue a career as a dietitian. Mandy currently works as a nutrition consultant and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she specializes in diabetes, weight management and general and preventive nutrition. She recently published her first book, Your Best Health, a personalized program to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. Please visit Mandy's website at Nutritionistics.com.