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Sugar - It's Not Heart-Healthy

Sugar - It's Not Heart-Healthy

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 08/31/2009
Last Updated: 01/17/2019

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I recently read a shocking report on sugar. Don't get me wrong: Given a choice, I'd much rather have a slab of cake or pie than a chicken breast or bowl of chips.

What was really surprising was to learn just how many teaspoons of sugar the average American consumes each day.

If you guessed ten teaspoons, you're wrong.

Believe it or not, it's MORE.

The average American consumes a whopping 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, most of it coming from beverages and candy. That adds up to over 300 calories!

The American Heart Association is urging Americans to cut back on their sugar intake, for the sake of their hearts. After all, we're taking in more calories than we did 30 years ago, they say, one of the reasons we're fatter today. And since obesity and diabetes are risk factors for heart disease - and one culprit is sugar - well then, it's obvious that the sugar needs to go.

The new recommendations for sugar are to take in a LOT less than 22 teaspoons a day. It's more like six teaspoons - that's 100 calories. That's for us women. Men get to have a bit more, about nine teaspoons, which works out to be 150 calories a day worth of the stuff.

"Added" sugar not only refers to the sugar you add to your coffee or cereal bowl...it's the sugar that's added to foods and drinks even before you purchase them. (A 12-ounce can of regular cola contains about 8 teaspoons of sugar - just that one can is already above the recommended limit for women.)

Add to that the fact that it's just about impossible to know how much sugar you're actually getting, because manufacturers are not required to list the amount of sugar added to their products. Usually you'll see something that says, "Total Sugars" which lumps all the naturally-occurring sugars together with the added ones. Keep in mind that words like "high-fructose corn syrup," which has replaced those sugar crystals, is just another substitute for sugar.

You might be interested in this report from the New England Journal of Medicine on putting a tax on sugar:

And look here to see how sugar stacks up:


I am a sugar addict! I keep wondering if there is a Betty Ford clinic that deals with sugar addiction. There is one product that I cannot stay away from, its Soy Dream icecream and the flavor I am hooked on is mocha fudge. After reading your blog, I am seriously going to try to cut back on my sugar intake. Thanks!

Seems to be universal, this overabundance and overconsumption of sugar. It's so important to be aware of how much is in just about everything we consume.

I have been dieting before my daughter's wedding, cutting out everything sweet, and sugar does seem to be everywhere. If you start looking at labels, you get a real shock. No wonder American kids are so chubby! After a full month I feel much healthier without the sugar. And, I've lost weight, too!!

Seriously, it's sickening to think of all the sugars and syrups in everything. I try to avoid processed food at all costs and I cute soda out of my diet back in college due to the ol' freshmen 20.

I actually "did" the south beach diet for several weeks to try and "rid" myself of excess carbs (and maintain a heart healthy diet). It was amazing how badly I craved sugars/carbs at first and then once that feeling passed I just didn't need them anymore. I still love chocolate and pie is DEELISH..but, I really don't seek it out. I was really eating TOO much of it and even now I am trying to eliminate sugar wherever I can. Drinks are a huge culprit (like you mention above). Great post!

Letting go of my tendency toward big (refined!) sugar consumption has been hard BUT it's been great...for my stomach, my skin, my outlook. I try to eat whole foods as much as possible.

I agree, it is virtually impossible to know how much sugar we're adding to our diet just by reading labels. I watch not just for high fructose corn syrup, but anything with an -ose at the end--they're all sugar. Some occur naturally, some don't, but the more of them I see in the ingredients, the less likely I am to buy.

Thanks for all of the info -- I thought I knew everything about sugar but I was wrong!

It's nearly impossible to know all the sugar we're getting. I'm trying to cut back since sugar appears to be making my triglycerides wonky. While I can easily cut out "gratuitous" sugar, I find myself shocked beyond all get out at how much sugar is in even benign seeming snacks, drinks, etc.

Thanks for posting this. Sugar is my vice too. And it is in everything it seems.

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