How Much Sugar Should You Be Consuming Per Day?

Bowl With Sugar Cubes


According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the daily calorie intake of the largest American population includes 16% of added sugar – the type that's typically found in cookies and not the natural sugar contained in fruits. When compared with the recommended amount of 5% by the World Health Organization, this is pretty high.

To attain your weight loss goals, the American Heart Association states that you should not consume more than 36 grams in a day for men and 25 grams a day for women. The amount is also equivalent to roughly six teaspoons of sugar a day.

Recommended number of teaspoons per day
Daily intake for women            
Daily intake for men                

To put this into perspective, Harvard School of Public Health has shown that over 70% of the American population eats more than 22 teaspoons of unnatural sugar in a day. And possibly, you are meeting or even exceeding the recommended daily intake with a single beverage, snack or meal. As an example there are just over 9 teaspoons of sugar in a can of coke which is the same as around 37 grams.

Actual consumption rate for over 70% of the population
Daily intake                                            

Measuring Carbohydrates

Accurate carbohydrates counting doesn't involve lots of work and anybody can do it. Contrary to what you might think, carbohydrates solely cause the rise of blood glucose level after eating food. How much the level rises highly depends on the following factors:

  •   The number of carbs in your food
  •   The portion size
  •   The amount of insulin in your body

You can maintain your blood glucose level at a consistent level by including the same carbohydrates amounts in your snacks and meals each and every day. Learn more about controlling your insulin levels and why good health has everything to do with blood sugar and insulin.

Monitor your total carbohydrates intake

Carbohydrates are typically in foods such as cereal, rice, bread, and potatoes. Anytime you eat something containing starch; your body will break it down into simple sugars which will enter into your bloodstream. Carbohydrates and sugar will heighten your blood glucose with the same amount and rate.

A quick example: a portion of rice containing 45g of starch will increase the level of your blood glucose the same amount a regular sugar-sweetened soda containing 45g of sugar will. In other words, you should be concerned about your total carbohydrate intake in a day and it's a good idea to check the amount specified on food labels which should show you the measurement in grams.

Counting the amount of sugar you have eaten

An accurate way to determine how much sugar a food item contains is to count carbohydrates. Sugar is just a form of carbohydrates often listed in total carbohydrates on food labels.

To do this, be sure to eliminate the fiber amount from the total carb count and only include half the sugar alcohol level. The reason to exclude fiber is because it won't raise your blood glucose levels, and sugar alcohol is not completely absorbed by the body.

As an example, if a protein bar contains 30 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and 14 grams of blood sugar alcohol, you should count it as 19 grams carbohydrate (30g – (4g + (14/2)) = 19g).

Total Carbohydrates in a low fat protein bar = 30 grams

To get a good indication of the amount of sugar you have eaten, you should take the grams of carbohydrates and divide them by 4. One teaspoon of sugar has about 5 grams of carbohydrate, and 20 calories (1). The result will provide you with the amount of sugar you have eaten in teaspoons.

    Sugar = Total Carbs - (Fiber + (Sugar Alcohol / 2)) / 4

In the case of our low fat protein bar we're looking at just under 1 teaspoon of sugar.

The differences between natural sugar and added sugar

Try to limit or eliminate eating lots of added sugars which include sweeteners or sugars that get added to food during the preparation process. For example adding it to your coffee, cereal or eating flavored yogurt should also be avoided. This form of sugar includes corn syrup, molasses, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, pure cane sugar, brown sugar and rice syrup. Make it a priority to reduce these types of sugars in your diet because it provides unhelpful nutrients and calories that you don’t need.

Naturally occurring sugar, on the other hand, forms part of your whole food such as the fructose in your fruits and lactose in milk. The fiber, protein, and water content found in natural sugars act in a different way inside the body and have a lower glycemic index. As a result, your body won’t absorb natural sugars as fast and your blood sugar won't spike.

Healthy sugar alternatives

Unless you're a diabetic, consuming natural sugar shouldn't be an issue unless you're consuming excessive amounts. For example, even though the protein fiber and water in fruits and the protein in dairy will help your body absorb sugar slowly and steadily, ten fruits a day will provide you with lots of unnecessary natural sugar.

Two or three helpings of fruit a day will be enough for a healthy adult. And because lactose doesn't have any adverse effects on your health consuming dairy can be another good alternative provided that it contains no added sugar.

Ultimately, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sugars and eliminate the need for added sugars. One great strategy to reduce sugar cravings is to combine natural fruits with ingredients like yogurt to make delicious smoothies and juices. Learn more about the benefits of juicing in the article drinks, juices, and smoothies to help with weight loss.

Drinks and foods to avoid

Consuming high quantities of sugar can lead to obesity as well as some other illnesses (2). All the sugar your body needs can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes so there's no real need to consume refined sugars, and just like carbohydrates, consuming excess sugars can cause type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Some of the foods and beverages you should avoid include:

  • Syrups and Sweeteners
  • Sodas and Drink powders
  • Nougat and Candies
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pies

Others include jams, spreads and preserves, food additives, fruits canned in syrup, instant gravies and sauces and cereals containing high sugar levels such as Berry Colossal Crunch and Rice Crispies. Learn more about types of food to avoid.

Final Thoughts

To take your health to another level, you should limit your daily added sugar intake to 20 grams or consider eliminating it completely especially when trying to lose weight. Ensure that your diet contains a wider variety of vegetables with an emphasis on green leafy vegetables, lean proteins, lower glycemic index fruits and low mercury fish. Make water your beverage.


1. Demystifying Sugar - Diabetes Education Online. Retrieved from

2. 8 Reasons Why Coffee Is Good for You - Healthline. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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