Over the last several decades, American's consumption of sugar has skyrocketed. It's no coincidence that so have our rates for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But, how do we know how much is too much? The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day and men no more than 9. We're not talking about the sugars found naturally in foods like fruits and milk, but added sugars from processed foods that seem to add up so quickly.
If you were to take a guess at how many teaspoons of added sugar you consume in a day, what would it be? Four? Twenty-two? Thirteen? Nutrition labels list sugar in grams. For most, (myself included) a gram is tough to visualize, but we can all easily picture a teaspoon. I'm going to teach you an easy trick to get to the bottom of your sugar intake and here's all you need to know:
4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp sugar
Let's walk through an example together. We'll take the ever-popular and so-called "healthy" Naked Juice-Green Machine in the 15.2 oz size made by PepsiCo (groan, I know). As a caveat, Naked Juice claims no added sugars, but the number one ingredient is apple juice and number three, pineapple juice.
1. First, we look at the nutrition label to determine grams of sugar:
2. Next, divide by 4 to get to teaspoons:
28 g sugar/4 g sugar = 7 tsp of sugar
Excuse me? 7 tsp of sugar in my "healthy" green drink? Unfortunately, it gets worse.
3. To get the total amount, determine the serving size:
At the top of every nutrition label (right below the serving size) the servings per container is listed. For this bottle the serving size if two. So, if you drink the whole bottle, you are consuming 2 servings and therefore need to multiply everything on the label (including the sugar) by two.
7 tsp of sugar x 2 servings = 14 tsp of sugar
If you're a woman, you've already had more than double your daily recommended sugar intake in your one little green drink. Ouch. Even worse, you'll notice there is ZERO fiber, letting all that sugar be immediately dumped into your bloodstream and missing out on one of the best things fruits and vegetables have to give.
So what to drink instead of Naked's liquid sugar goodness? Make your own fruit smoothie with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Add some protein, (plain Kefir is my favorite for the probiotics or a protein powder you like) BLEND it all up and you're in business. By blending, you've retained all the fiber which in turn helps to make you feel fuller, keep your blood sugars stable, cholesterol low and poops regular!
Now while I don't believe the AHA's sugar recommendations are necessarily one-size-fits-all, I do believe they are a good place to start. Next time you are at the store, practice the "divide by 4" trick on any product- barbecue sauce, soda, your fancy vitamin water, bread, salad dressing, cookies, tomato sauce, granola- and you will see how quickly it adds up. Don't forget to account for the serving size and how many you are having. I'm willing to bet you're consuming much more than you think.
Our bodies need sugar, (glucose) to function, but the vast majority of us are overdosing on a daily basis which can wreak havoc on our bodies. Being an educated, discerning consumer can help you keep your sugar intake in check.
Over several days, track your total added sugar consumption using this tip. I'd love to hear what you come up with and if you are surprised by your result!