How Many Grams of Sugar Should You Eat in a Day to Lose Weight?
Are you addicted to sugar?
Americans alone eat 152 pounds of sugar per year. In 1970 that number was 123 pounds per year.That comes to 2 pounds per person every week of pure sugar that you are eating.
More than 1 in 3 Americans are obese, and this number includes 17% of kids.
Sugar is in more of your food than you ever realized and it’s getting worse. You may not even realize how much sugar you are eating unless you read every food label.
So what if you are trying to lose weight? How much sugar should you be eating if weight loss is your goal?’
By the time you get to the end of this post, you will know a lot more about sugar. You’ll know how to spot it on your food labels and how much you should eat.
You’ll also learn some tricks that food companies use to get you to eat more sugar without you even knowing.
You’ll also learn about some easy tips for beating your addiction. If you can limit the sugar you eat, you can lose weight!
Ready? Let’s do it!
Is sugar addiction real?
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t resist a sweet treat like a piece of cake or donut? Have you ever felt like if you went without sugar too long you would feel sick?
Some researchers argue that food can’t be addictive because you need it to live. Something that you must have can’t be addictive they say.
But what about sugar. You do not need sugar to live. There is a rare genetic disease called Hereditary Fructose Intolerance that affects 1 in 1000,000 babies.
Parents find out about this disease when their child has their first sip of fruit juice and has a seizure. Once diagnosed, people with this condition must stay away from sugar for the rest of their lives.
And since being 100% sugar free doesn’t kill them, then sugar can not be something that you need to live.
Cocaine vs Oreos
Ok, so you know that you do not need sugar to live, but is it addictive?
Ask these rats.
Students at Connecticut College and their professor recently studied rats, drugs and Oreos.
They put the rats through a maze with rice cakes on one side and Oreos on the other. Does it surprise you to learn that the rats all liked the Oreo side much more?
Then they switched up the test with morphine or cocaine on one side and saline solution on the other. And what they found was the rats liked the Oreo or morphine or cocaine side more than the rice cake or saline side.
What does this mean?
It means that rats, like people like exciting and delicious foods more than boring foods.
Then they studied a protein (c-Fos) that “lights up” inside of your brain’s “pleasure center” when you give it pleasurable things like Oreos.
Want to know the best part?
Oreos activated this area of the brain more than cocaine or morphine.
What’s the bottom line?
To at least some rats, Oreos are better than cocaine or morphine.
How Many Americans are Addicted to Sugar?
We can’t say exactly how many Americans have a sugar addiction yet. Researchers are only starting to study sugar addiction, so it may be a while before the numbers are in.
But we do know how much sugar Americans eat or drink, so let’s start there.
Fizzy Drinks (Soda) – The average American kid drinks 8oz of soda a day. Studies have shown that drinking one soda per day increases your risk for diabetes by 29%
We also know from studies that 30.1% of adults on average report that they drink at least one soda per day.
Fruit juice – You may think that drinking fruit juice is better than soda since it comes from healthy fruit.
But here’s the kicker
When you remove the fiber from fruit you end up with pure liquid sugar.
When you eat a piece of fruit your body digests the fiber and the sugars over time. When you remove that fiber the body must deal with the sugar all at once.
This is the same process that happens when you drink a soda. So don’t let food companies fool you into thinking that “all natural” fruit juice is a healthy choice.
How much sugar should you have in one day?
You already know from earlier that the average adult is eating 152 pounds of sugar per year.
But how much should you be eating?
The World Health Organization recently came out with a new guideline on how much sugar is safe to eat.
They recommend adults and kids eat no more than 10% of your total energy intake in the form of sugar.
And they say if you want even more health benefits to limit your intake to no more than 5% of your total energy intake from sugar.
So you might be wondering.
How much is 5% of my daily intake in real numbers?
It’s easy. A 5% daily intake of sugar is 25 grams, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar daily.
This means added sugars and pure sugar, but does not include the sugar that is in whole fruit or milk sugar.
How to figure out how much sugar is in food
When you start reading your food labels closer you’ll notice one thing very quick.
Sugar is likely in most of the foods in your house. It’s in 77% of the food in American grocery stores.
Sugar is everywhere!
To figure out how much sugar is in your food is very easy if you know what to look at.
Food Label – The first place you can look for sugar is on your food label. On the food label you’ll find sugar listed in grams (g).
You already know from earlier that you want to limit your sugar to 6 teaspoons a day.
So how do you convert grams of sugar into teaspoons?
4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon
So if you are reading a food label and you see 24 grams of sugar, you can find out fast that’s 6 teaspoons of sugar.
When in doubt, grab your phone and use the calculator to figure out how much sugar is in that food fast.
Ingredient list – Another place you can look for sugar is on the ingredients list on your food label.
The main ingredient is at the front of the list and the other ingredients follow. So if sugar is the 3rd ingredient on the list, then you know that sugar has the 3rd highest quantity of the ingredients.
Are there other names for sugar?
How many names for sugar can you think of?
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup…and that’s about it right?
There are 56 names for sugar!
So when you are reading your food labels you have to be on the lookout for 56 possible names of sugar.
Kind of sneaky right?
Some of these you have likely heard before. Some you may have never heard of before.
But food companies are putting some of these in your food, so it’s wise to be on the lookout for them on your food labels.
Even though many of these are “natural” sugars, the effect they have on your body when you eat them is the same.
You want to do everything possible to limit these forms of sugar.
56 Names For Sugar
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Cane juice crystals
Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Brown rice syrup
Corn syrup solids
Some of these you will not see in most of your food. But you will have to read your food labels with a watchful eye to find the rest.
And food companies will try to trick you by using words like “organic” or “all natural” or “real sugar”.
Don’t let them fool you!
Sugar is sugar, and if you can avoid any type of added sugar in your food, you will be better off.
How to break your sugar addiction
When you eat sugar, there is a part of your brain that becomes happy.
It’s called the nucleus accumbens
The next time you eat sugar, you need a little bit more to make that same part of your brain happy.
This is why sugar becomes addicting for you. You crave that reward that you get from the sugar so you eat enough to get it.
And as you eat more sugar, it does more damage to your body.
So how can you break the sugar addiction cycle?
There are not any magic pills or chants you can say to stop liking sugar. But there are some things you can do to get out of the cycle of eating so much sugar.
The good news is that once you are eating less sugar, you will crave much less sugar. You may even get to the point where sugar tastes too sweet when you do have it all the time.
That sounds crazy right?
All you have to do is train your brain to get those same rewards from real foods and then you won’t crave foods loaded with sugar.
Tips to quit your sugar addiction
I’m not going to give you any tips like “take a walk” or “get busy” for when you are craving sugar.
Those tips may work for some people, but let’s face facts here…those tips suck for most of us.
The real fact is that quitting sugar is hard but you can do it!
Want to know the best part?
Once your body gets used to having little to no sugar you won’t crave it. And the better news is that can happen in a few days sometimes.
But when you do feel like something sweet, try these simple tips.
- Eat some fresh fruit – I know it sounds like it won’t work, but an awesome piece of fruit will calm those sugar cravings fast. And since fruit has fiber, it will also fill you up a lot faster than pure sugar.
- Eat some sugar – What? Isn’t this the opposite of kicking the sugar habit?
I know that you live in the real world, right? And in the real world never eating sugar again is going to be hard to do. So if you have not had any sugar in a few days and you can’t stand it…then have a little bit.
What is a little bit of sugar?
Remember earlier when you learned how much sugar the World Health Organization recommends?
Hint – it’s 25 grams a day (6 teaspoons), at most.
So if you can eat a sweet treat that is 10 or 15 grams of sugar and you haven’t had any other sugar that day then go for it.
- Eat a lot of fresh foods – OK, this has to be a joke right?
Not at all. I bet it’s hard to imagine now, but when you fill your gut with great foods you will not crave sugar as much as you do now.
You will even find yourself reaching for a snack that isn’t sweet at all.
I mean it. Make an awesome 3-bean salad or some 1 pan Mexican quinoa.
After you eat that, if you need something sweet then grab one of those apples or oranges.
- Eat a plant based dessert. There are recipes like this one and this one that will amaze your taste buds.
These aren’t 100% sugar free, but they have natural sugars in them and not very much at all.
The best part is that your sweet tooth will thank you for them, I promise.
What’s the bottom line?
I know these tips may seem too easy or too stupid. That’s the point. There are no magic cures for sugar addiction. There aren’t any pills you can take.
You have to decide you are sick of being sick and take control of your life. If it’s hard then try eating 1 apple a day and eating 1 less sweet thing per day.
Try that for a week if you have to. Then the next week eat one less sweet food and add more fruit.
“But fruit isn’t as good as candy” I can hear you saying, right?
What’s going on here is that your body likes sugar so much that foods with natural sugars seem boring to you.
They aren’t though.
Fruit will be your best friend soon.
Once you get processed foods and sugar out of your diet you will see how awesome a good piece of fruit can be.
So let’s answer the question.
How many grams of sugar should you eat per day if you want to lose weight?
Since everybody is different it’s impossible to put an exact number on it. But if you stick to 25 grams or less per day like the World Health Organization recommends you are off to a great start.
If you read every food label and look for hidden and added sugar in your food you will have no problem at all staying under 25 grams a day.
And when you eat less than 25 grams of sugar a day you will soon notice that you crave it less and that “whole foods” taste much better.
And of course you’ll find that losing weight is a lot easier than spending 4 hours a day at the gym.
Do you think you can limit your sugar to 6 teaspoons or less a day?
Let me know what you think in the comments!