Less than 100 years ago, the average American consumed less than 4 pounds of sugar per year.
Compared to the amount of sugar we eat now, that isn’t much at all. Today, the average American consumes over 100 pounds of sugar each year—and the numbers are climbing.
Where does all that sugar come from? Do you know how much sugar you eat on a daily basis? Are you aware of your sugar habit?
Exactly what is sugar?
Let’s talk for a minute about what kinds of sugars you are eating every day. First, there is table sugar composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. High-fructose corn syrup, used to sweeten soft drinks and other processed foods, is composed of 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
A few years ago Agave was touted as an alternative to table sugar. It comes from the Agave plant and was thought to be a healthy sugar. We now know that Agave is made up of 90% fructose. It is not a viable alternative. Fructose is almost twice as sweet as glucose. Fructose is the difference between sugar and other carbohydrate-rich foods, like bread and potatoes, which break down to glucose alone when digested.
Is a calorie a calorie?
What about the nutritional value of a calorie? Are all calories equal? The evidence from my research shows that they are not. Since sugar is known as “empty” calories, then it makes sense that a sugar calorie is not equal to a calorie rich in nutrients.
For years, health professionals have perpetuated the idea that sugar had no nutritional value, but didn’t do any harm to our bodies either. Recent studies have shown that is not true.
Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat, has been studying this subject for more than 10 years. He reports that our bodies process fructose differently than glucose. Fructose is metabolized primarily by the liver and excess fructose is stored as fat. However, glucose is metabolized by every cell in our bodies.
Studies have shown that the way our bodies metabolize sugar, particularly fructose, is related to insulin resistance—which can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and may be related to types of cancer.
How much sugar should we eat?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (38 grams) of added sugar per day for men. For women, the recommendation is 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day.
When I started paying attention to the amount of sugar I was consuming, I was shocked! Before I even finished breakfast, I had exceeded my sugar intake for the whole day.
A typical breakfast for me consists of plain Greek yogurt with blueberries and walnuts, sweetened with honey and a cup of coffee with creamer. My best estimate is that my breakfast weighs in at about 38 grams of sugar; more than the recommended intake for an entire day.
If you eat sweeten cereals for breakfast, you may also easily exceed you sugar quota for the day before breakfast.
Here is another example to give you an idea of where sugar is lurking: One 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar, which is equal to about 9 1/3 teaspoons. For people who drink several soft drinks each day, that can mean more than 100 grams of sugar just through soda’s “empty” calories.
Some of the obvious places where we consume excessive amount of sugar are in candies, cakes, pies, cookies and donuts. Sugar also hides in sauces, ketchup, canned fruits, fruit juices, salad dressings, sport drinks and numerous other foods that we eat all the time.
Is there a correlation between the amount of sugar we eat and the obesity epidemic in our country?
In 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” which has been viewed over 5 million times. Watch the video and draw your own conclusions. The evidence seems to be pointing directly at our excessive sugar intake and the harm that it is doing to our bodies.
Question: How much sugar do you eat each day? Has your sugar consumption affected your health? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.