Six to Nine Teaspoons

How much sugar do you eat each day? Chances are it’s more than you should. Here are 10 simple ways to cut back.

How can something so good be so bad for you? It’s sweet, it’s addictive, and it’s hiding in many foods you’d never guess. It’s sugar. The sugar found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products as fructose or lactose won’t hurt you. In fact, your body needs these sugars for energy.

However, sugar is added to countless processed foods for flavor, color, and texture. Too much of this type of sugar leads to ill health effects including weight gain, increased blood sugar, metabolic syndrome, premature aging, and even cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

Current recommendations for added sugar consumption are no more than six teaspoons a day for women (25 grams) and no more than nine teaspoons (37.5 grams) a day for men, but our society is failing and failing badly at following these guidelines. How badly? The average person eats anywhere from 13 to 20 teaspoons of added sugar each day, which is two to three times the recommended limit.

Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet with these tips.

Read Nutrition Labels

Every packaged food product has a nutrition label that tells the number of grams of sugar per serving and lists the added sugar ingredients. Food manufactures make this complicated, using 56 different names for added sugar. It’s their way of keeping you from avoiding their excessively sweet foods. A few of the more common names for sugar include any word ending in -ose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, honey, cane syrup, and molasses.

If you’re not sure if the sugar content is natural or added, naturally occurring sugars aren’t listed in the ingredients and the ingredients are listed in order from most amount in the food to least.

Drink More Water

A large majority of the added sugar people consume is found in drinks such as sodas, juices, sweet teas, flavored coffees, lemonade, and sports drinks. Just one 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams (9.3 teaspoons) of sugar. That’s more than the daily recommendation, so you can see how easy it is to overdo it without even thinking about it. Even 100-percent fruit juice is high in sugar. Though it’s natural sugar, it’s a type of sugar that’s quickly digested and causes a spike in blood sugar.

By drinking only water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, or milk, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet.

Shop the Perimeter

Keeping added sugar out of your house is the first step to keeping it out of your belly. So limiting the amount of sugar you eat starts in the grocery store. Most grocery stores are designed with processed foods on the inner isles and whole foods along the outer edges. The majority of food in you grocery cart should be fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, and lean protein. The fewer processed foods, the better.

Watch Out for Hidden Sugars

Don’t think that just because a food isn’t sweet it isn’t made with sugar. Added sugar is lurking in many foods you’d never expect like salad dressing, ketchup, protein bars, yogurt, bread, tomato sauce, and cereal. This is why reading nutrition labels is so important.

Eat More Fruit

When your sweet tooth is driving you crazy, give in and eat a piece of fruit to satisfy your craving. Fruit may be high in sugar, but it’s the natural kind, so you don’t need to worry too much. Keep fresh or dried fruit on hand for a healthy, sweet snack that’s also high in fiber. But as with all things, be careful not to overdo it on sweet fruits, as even they can add to your waistline if not eaten in moderation.