How Much Sugar Per Day Should You Consume?
Natural Versus Added Sugar
Before we talk about how much sugar you need per day, there are two types of sugar you should be aware of: natural sugar and added sugar. Natural sugar is any sugar that occurs naturally in foods, like fruits and vegetables. Added sugar is white table sugar (and the various other forms that processed sugar comes in). It can be added in different ways to the foods you eat. While it should still be consumed in moderation, there are no limits on the recommended daily sugar amounts for natural sugar. Most likely this is because people are more concerned about bingeing on a dozen apple fritters, not a dozen apples. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on added sugar when considering how many grams of sugar per day you should be consuming.
Gender and Sugar
The first factor to consider when trying to figure out how much sugar per day is your gender. According to the American Heart Association, men should consume no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar per day. This is the equivalent of 36 grams or 150 calories. Women, on the other hand, should only consume six teaspoons of added sugar per day (25 grams or just 100 calories). Currently, the average intake of sugar is 77 grams per day, which equals 19 teaspoons or 306 calories. That daily can of soda you have in the afternoon, for example, has 32 grams of sugar.
Kids and Sugar
It's hard to keep kids away from sugar. From juice boxes to birthday parties to sugary cereals to only eating peanut butter and jelly for lunch and dinner, it's really easy for kids to surpass the recommended daily sugar intake. Kids in general should follow women's requirements for sugar — no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day (equal to 25 grams or 100 calories). Even though processed foods make it easy for you to feed a picky eater, a lot of those foods are filled with sugar.
Exercise and Sugar
While intense exercise doesn't necessarily mean you can up your sugar requirements, it does, however, soften the blow when you go on a sugar binge. Studies have shown that, when you exercise, your body is less likely to store excess sugar as fat if you have an occasional sugar binge (donuts at the office or birthday cake, for example). This doesn't mean you can go crazy and eat all the sugar you want just because you work out a few times a week. Exercise does, however, let you justify the occasional cheat day. While the overall goal is to keep your daily sugar intake at or below the requirements, you are also human and sometimes you just need an ice cream sundae. Staying active will help.
Why You Crave Sugar
We're sure you've heard people say that sugar is like a drug because it's addictive. And that's not far from the truth. When you eat any amount of sugar, it affects your brain. When you eat excess sugar, it affects the dopamine levels in your brain. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure. So the more sugar you eat, the higher the dopamine levels. Like a drug, when your dopamine levels begin to lower, your body wants more of what was making it feel so good...in this case, though, it's sugar. If you keep your servings around the recommended daily sugar intake, you may not have to worry about this reaction happening.
How To Fight Sugar Cravings
We eat so many processed foods today, that's it's really easy to crave sugar all the time. Of course, the first thing you want to do is start keeping track of how many grams of sugar per day you are eating. Write it in a journal or track it on an app. Then, you can start to look for low-sugar alternatives to what you are eating. One of the easiest ways to fight sugar cravings is to eat food as close to its natural source as possible. And if you do eat a lot of processed foods, pay attention to the nutrition labels, especially the serving sizes.
Another way to fight sugar cravings is to stay active. We tend to eat when we're bored, so if you find yourself craving that box of cookies in the pantry, find something to do. You can also drink a glass of water or eat more protein. The best way to make sure you are not surpassing the recommended daily sugar intake is to be aware of what you are eating.