You're eating too much added sugar. That's the message the American Heart Association (AHA) sent to the nation in August of 2009.

  • The average American over the age of one eats 22 teaspoons of added sugars each day. That equals about 355 calories as added sugar.
  • Teenagers ages 14 to 18 have the highest added sugar intake at 34 teaspoons a day. That equals about 550 calories as added sugar.
  • The AHA is advising Americans to limit sugar to
  • 6 teaspoons or fewer for women (that's 100 calories worth)
  • o 9 teaspoons or fewer for men (that's 150 calories worth)

 Much of the added sugar in Americans' diet comes from soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened drinks. But cookies, cakes, pastries and other snack foods can also add quite a bit of added sugars.

Natural vs. Added Sugars: But before we start talking about how you can cut back on added sugar, let's talk about just what "added sugar" means.  The sugar the AHA wants you to cut back on are those that you add to foods yourself or sugars that food producers have added to foods. But how can you tell the difference?

Let's use milk as an example. Regular, plain milk does not have any added sugar. Yet, if you look at the label, you'll see that it says there are 13 grams of "sugars" in it. 
sugar label reading

How Bad is Sugar?  Sugar does not cause heart disease. So why is the AHA telling us to cut back? Eating too much sugar can pump up your weight and too much weight is bad for your heart. Also, if you're eating a lot of high sugar foods, you may be skipping healthier foods that could help lower your chances of getting heart disease.

So, sugar can be a problem if:

  • You have a weight problem. Sugar can add a lot of calories that can put on the pounds.
  • Sugar is taking the place of healthy foods.

 To cut back on added sugar, choose

  • Canned fruits packed in juice or light syrup.
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Diet soda
  • Unsweetened Tea
  • Fresh fruit
  • Choose whole grain cereals more often instead of sweetened cereal

Read the ingredients list. There's added sugar if the ingredients list shows:

  • Sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Corn sweetener

Beth Kitchin, PhD, RD
Assistant Professor
UAB Nutrition Sciences Department
31 August 2009

Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands, et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1011-1020.