Dietitians on board with new guidelines taking aim at added sugars
February 6, 2016
Added sugars lurk in many foods and beverages, and new national dietary guidelines suggest it's time for everyone to shift eating habits to avoid excess sugar consumption.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released earlier this month, suggest Americans limit added sugar consumption to no more than 10 percent of a person's daily calories — about 200 calories, or 10 to 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day, for a person on a 2,000-calorie per day diet.
For reference, a can of cola has about 10 teaspoons of added sugar, some types of flavored yogurt have about six teaspoons and popular ketchups have about one teaspoon per tablespoon of the sauce. Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon.
"There are added sugars in everything," said Nancy Cohen, an RDN nutritionist in Steamboat Springs, who said she was on board with the new guidelines related to sugar consumption. "We're very familiar with the taste of products that have a little bit of added sugar."
Cohen said if added sugar were removed from products such as soy milk and ketchup, "you would notice the difference."
Steamboat Springs dietician Jamie Lamb agreed, saying food products such as pasta sauce and yogurt may contain more sugar than people realize.
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"There's sugar in all kinds of things that people aren't even aware of," Lamb said. "Most people could definitely stand to cut back a little, so I think (the guidelines are) great."
Cohen and Lamb hope the new guidelines will encourage people to read labels more carefully and consider their sugar consumption. Cohen added that people should familiarize themselves with the many names of sugar, including agave, fructose and sucrose.
Cohen said that, while cutting back on added sugars is a good idea, it doesn't mean consumers must give up a favorite food entirely because of the sugar content.
"If you like Coca Cola, maybe limit it to one can a week. A jelly donut, maybe save it for a birthday party," Cohen said. "But if you're sitting down and you're having a can of Coke with every meal, or you're eating your breakfast and covering it with some sort of syrup or honey, it can really start replacing other calories."
Cohen said some sugar consumption is OK, but too much leads to an overload on the pancreas, blood sugar swings and a loss of focus.
Cohen and Lamb agreed cutting back on sugar alone won't make for a perfect diet, and sugar isn't necessarily the biggest culprit to poor health.
"It's really about the whole diet, so for each person, it's different," Lamb said.