How Much Sugar is Too Much?

by Liat  - December 25, 2019

It’s official! Organizations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake.

While this is a step forward, there are still a few problems. One – they don’t all agree with each other. And, two, I don’t necessarily agree with them either.

We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It isn’t full of nutrition, and excess consumption is not associated with great health.

The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.

So let’s talk about how much sugar is “too much.”

Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar. What do some of the officials say?

Before we talk about the “official” numbers (and why I don’t agree with them), you need to know the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.

Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.

“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, candies, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.

So, “Total sugars” = “Naturally occurring sugars” + “Added sugars.”

The “official” change is the new Nutrition Facts tables. You may remember that in the USA, they declare the amount of sugar, but don’t give it a %DV (% daily value); this means, they’ve never had a “benchmark” maximum daily value to use. They haven’t declared how much is too much. Now, the USA implementing a %DV for sugar.

They are not declaring “total” sugars but will differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars. They have decided on a maximum of 50 g of “added” sugars each day. Unfortunately, this is still TOO MUCH.

What is a better daily sugar goal?

While these official numbers are a step in the right direction, they’re not what I would recommend.

I’d ditch as many processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your “daily value” of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50 g of “added” sugar per day; Ideally you should get no more than 20 g of added sugar per day.

Just to put this in to prospective, and help you understand: one container (6 oz) of Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Blueberry Yogurt contains 24 grams of added sugar! which is 6 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR!!!

Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed foods and limit your total sugar intake to no more than 50 grams per day.

Tips to reduce your sugar intake

Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t get too much:

  • Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes soda pop, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea “black” or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half. Or try my delicious (no added sugar) dessert recipe below.
  • Instead of a granola bar (or other sugary snack), try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a “to-go” container the night before.


Let me know in the comments your favorite tips to reduce your sugar intake!

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Passionate about the science of nutrition and its practical applications, Liat brings a wealth of expertise to unravel the complexities of wellness, providing insightful guidance for your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

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  1. Very good and useful article! Finding the added sugar grams is relatively “easy” to know so, if you are careful, you can control that.

    But is there a good source of grams of sugar in common “Naturally occurring sugars”. To actually implement this plan to stay below 20 grams you need to know those sugar grams too, and Googling each item sees like a really time-consuming process…

    1. You are correct. It is almost impossible to fine one single source that can provide the amount of naturally occurring sugars of all foods.
      The following link provides information on grams of sugar in fruits:
      other food groups such as animal protein oils and fats, do not contain any sugars.

  2. I appreciate this article. Thanks for the helpful information regarding sugar. It will certainly will help me be more aware of added sugar and natural sugar intake. Good information to know. Thanks Liat.

  3. Thank you Liat for this information on sugar and did all of your on line posts. I find useful information in every one of them. I am trying to share the information with my children, hoping they will make at least some changes in the diets of their own children as well as themselves. Especially with things like sugar consumption. Please know that your on-line posts serve a great good. Thank you for all you do. Colleen Rychak

    1. Thank you so much for your great feedback! I appreciate that and I’m happy I can help in making positive health impact with this information.

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