updated 8:17 p.m. ET, Mon., Aug 24, 2009
DALLAS - A spoonful of sugar? Americans are swallowing 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, and it's time to cut way back, the American Heart Association says.
Most of that added sugar comes from soft drinks and candy — a whopping 355 calories and the equivalent of guzzling two cans of soda and eating a chocolate bar.
By comparison, most women should be getting no more than 6 teaspoons a day, or 100 calories, of added sugar — the sweeteners and syrups that are added to foods during processing, preparation or at the table. For most men, the recommended limit is 9 teaspoons, or 150 calories, the heart group says.
The guidelines do not apply to naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruit, vegetables or dairy products.
She said about 8 ounces of fruit-flavored yogurt has about 6 teaspoons of added sugar; 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk has about 4 teaspoons; a cup of frosted whole grain cereal has about 3 teaspoons.
The biggest culprits for the glut of sugar? Soft drinks by far, followed by candy, cakes, cookies and pies.
With about 8 teaspoons of added sugar, a regular 12-ounce soft drink will put most women over the recommended daily limit.
Cutting back on sugar likely won't be easy for many people, said Lona Sandon, a dietitian at Dallas' University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
"I think it's probably going to be a struggle for quite a few people," Sandon said.
To check for added sugar, look for a variety of ingredients including sugar, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, molasses or evaporated cane juice on the label.
The heart group didn't recommend general limits for added sugar for children; a national health survey has shown that kids ages 14 to 18 consume an eye-popping 34 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
Sandon said that parents can help lower that sugar intake by getting soda out of the house, looking at how much sugar is in their kids' cereal and substituting snacks like cookies with popcorn.