The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans isn’t sugarcoating its recommendation for reducing added sugar intake. The upcoming new report will recommend reducing sugar to 6 percent of your daily calories, a significant decrease from 10 percent suggested in the previous Dietary Guidelines. If you consume a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, this would reduce your added sugar intake from 50 grams (g) (200 calories) to 30 g per day (120 calories).
Many Reduction Options
There are many ways to consume 30 g of sugar: 8 ounces of some sodas or juices contain all 30 grams in one can or bottle. However, there are many more reasons why limiting added sugars is important for your health.
“Increased consumption of added sugar can lead to weight gain, as well as increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver, and mortality from those conditions,” explains Morgan Dickison, registered dietitian nutritionist with Weill Cornell Medicine’s Comprehensive Weight Control Center. Sugar intake also is linked with cognitive decline and even some cancers. And, Dickison says, “Increased consumption of added sugar tends to take the place of more nutrient-dense foods, making it more difficult to reach other nutrient recommendations.”
One word of caution for people with diabetes on glucose lowering medications: Take care when reducing your added sugar intake. People with diabetes “may need to discuss changes in their medication regimen with their doctor while lowering their sugar intake to prevent blood-sugar lows,” Dickison says.
How to Reduce Your Sugar
There are lots of delicious options to help reduce your added sugar intake. According to the Dietary Guidelines, nearly 70 percent of added sugars come from sweetened beverages (soda, juice, coffee or tea), desserts, sweet snacks, candy, and breakfast cereals or bars. “Replace sodas or juices with flavored seltzer or water with a splash of lemon,” Dickison recommends.
She also suggests you try reducing the level of sugar in your coffee or tea slowly to give your taste buds time to adjust. For snacks, replace a dessert or cereal bar with a whole piece of fruit or whole-grain crackers. And, “make your own mix of nuts, seeds, and roasted oats in place of sweetened granolas.”
Many packaged and processed foods, even those that are savory or spicy, contain hidden added sugars. “Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label to compare ‘added sugar’ amounts,” she says. Flavored yogurts are often a surprising source of sugar. “Use plain yogurt and add your own sweetness with fresh fruits such as berries or a chopped apple. Making your own version of a snack is a better way to control your sugar intake,” Dickison says.