How much sugar you should consume every day?

Think of sugar and it brings sweet memories to everyone’s mind. Sweet memories of chocolates, payasams, laddus, cakes, milkshakes and all the lovely treats that are ‘oh so sweet’! Can you imagine a day without eating sugar? Not unless you are a diabetic.

A day without sugar is something unimaginable for most of us. Imagine drinking that cherished cup of tea or coffee without sugar! Well, thankfully most of us don’t have to eliminate sugar all together, but what we need to do is keep a watch on the amount we consume every day.

Back in 2009 the American Heart Association (AHA) was the first to put up guidelines for sugar consumption. This was done because consumption of excess sugar was associated with a number of health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, reduced immunity, tooth decay and also increases the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. According to the AHA, here is the allowance for sugar on a daily basis:

Women: 6 teaspoons

Men: 9 teaspoons

Children (preschool): 3- 4 teaspoons

4-8 yrs.: 3 teaspoons

Pre-teen and teenagers: 5-8 teaspoons

This makes me wonder if people have ever given a thought about how much sugar we end up having on a daily basis. Normally when I ask someone to count they end up counting only the amount they have added into their tea or coffee they make. But what about the sugar present in stuff like biscuits, jams, juices and soft drinks that we tend to eat? If you add that up the total can be anywhere close to 15-25 teaspoons!! Here’s a look at the amount of sugar already present in different foods to give you a general idea of how the total keeps increasing through the day:

Food

Sugar * (approx.)

Soft drinks  (335 ml)

10 tsp

Fresh juice (with added sugar)

8 tsp

Icecream (1 cup)

10 tsp

Chocolate bar (40 g)

5 tsp

Gulab Jamun (1 no)

4 tsp

Cream biscuit (3 no)

3 tsp

Jam (2tsp)

1 tsp

Ketchup (1 tablespoon)

1 tsp

*1 teaspoon = 4 gms

What exactly is sugar and why is too much bad for us? The white sugar or simply put ‘table/refined sugar’ is a form of simple carbohydrate that is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugar by itself does not contain any nutrition other than calories and these calories referred to as ‘empty calories’.

Once consumed, it is digested quickly and converted to glucose that is released into the blood stream and gives us energy. Too much sugar gives rise to too much glucose in the blood stream and too much energy which if not used (no physical activity) gets stored in the body as fat. This over a period of time can lead to weight gain and other related health problems.

Anything in moderation is fine. The trouble starts when we have too much of a certain food-in this case sugar. Some people prefer to avoid sugar altogether while some find it impossible to completely omit sugar. The solution then is to set a limit and try to not go over that on most days. Here are some tips to limit your sugar intake:

  • Know your sugar limit and be conscious of foods that already contain sugar (candy, sweets, biscuits, pastries, bakery foods, chocolates, jams, ice-creams and such)
  • Keep sweets as treats for special occasions like festivals, birthdays, anniversaries or when you have a celebration.
  • If you feel like ending your meals with a sweet, try fruits. Fruits have natural sugars (fructose) which can help you tide over the craving for something sweet and in the bargain also provide other nutrients like vitamins, fibre and minerals.
  • Drink water to quench your thirst or with meals instead of soft drinks or juices.
  • Avoid or reduce the amount of sugar you add to foods like milk, juices, curds, tea/coffee, curries/sambhars and palyas.
  • Avoid buying and storing sweets, chocolates and other foods that are loaded with sugar.

This does not mean that you have to feel guilty whenever you eat a sugary treat-everything in moderation is fine. Instead of eating a whole pack of cream biscuits, stopping at two or even three biscuits will make a world of difference. The whole idea is to be aware of what you eat and knowing when to stop.

As far as kids are concerned, it may be difficult to reduce the sweet treats if they are already used to them. In such cases it will help to do it over a period of time instead of stopping it in a day. Here are some tips to reduce sugar in your child’s diet:

  1. Horlicks/Complan/Boost and other such brands already have sugar in it, so you don’t need to add any extra sugar to the milk.
  2. Introduce healthy snacks like fruits, fruit chaats, tomato chaat,  dhoklas, home made popcorn (with less oil/butter), sandwiches with different fillings, homemade wraps (roll a chapathi with some filling) instead of giving them biscuits every day.
  3. Dry fruits and nuts make a light and nutritious snack for school or those in between meal times.
  4. Avoid sugary or chocolate coated breakfast cereals and switch to plain cornflakes or wheat flakes and add dry fruits or fresh fruits to the cereal.
  5. Don’t make a habit of keeping chocolates/sweets at home. These can be given as treats.

On the positive side, avoiding too much sugar and processed foods will mean that you end up eating more healthy foods which isn’t such a bad thing to do. Try it and see the change-the new healthy you. Add some regular exercise and you’ll discover a whole new self.

About Sweta Uchil-Purohit 14 Articles

Sweta Uchil-Purohit is a dietitian with over 15 years of experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics with a passion for helping people understand the topic.

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