This past week the federal government’s new dietary guidelines were released, making the recommendation to limit sugar to 10 percent of one’s daily caloric intake or about 12.5 teaspoons.
There are 4 grams in a teaspoon, so that’s roughly 50 grams of sugar per day. That’s still a ton of sugar in one day if you’re going to hit that maximum. It’s actually double what the the World Health Organization has been suggesting as the limit for some time now—approximately 6 teaspoons, 25 grams of sugar per day.
If I asked you how many teaspoons of sugar you have in your blood stream, what would you say? 5? 10? 30? These are some of the estimates I get when I ask people this question.
It’s just one teaspoon. A healthy person should have roughly a teaspoon of sugar in his or her bloodstream. (If you want to know how I calculated that, please see the bottom of this post.)
On average Americans consume about 22.2 teaspoons, just about 90 grams, of sugar per day. How does it happen that Americans consume 22 times the normally healthy amount of sugar in their blood streams?
That’s accomplished by outsourcing our meals to the food industry. Just turn over a package of anything processed and start calculating the amount of sugar in it.
How about we take a look at a typical American breakfast. I work with kids currently, and this is exactly what a lot of them eat:
- Cereal (Cinnamon Toast crunch), 17 grams of sugar = 4.25 teaspoons
- with milk, 13 grams of sugar = 3.25 teaspoons
- Orange juice (12 oz serving), 34 grams of sugar = 8.5 teaspoons
That’s 16 teaspoons to start the day with.
Another way to see it is that’s sixteen times the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, dumped into the bloodstream all at once. Actually, given that the cereal is made from processed grain that will break down rapidly into sugar, the sugar load is more than 16 teaspoons.
No, it’s likely more than that. Let’s be honest, who actually measures out the ¾ of a cup serving size?
And what about yogurt for a snack? This one tiny cup of yoplait has 6 teaspoons of sugar in it, excuse me, now with 25% less sugar, 5 teaspoons.
Ketchup, a serving is one tablespoon and in every tablespoon there are 4 grams of sugar. That’s a whole teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon of ketchup!
Peanut butter (popular brands like Jiffy with hydrogenated oil and added sugar) has about one teaspoon of sugar for every serving.
I’ll stop now, but I encourage anyone reading this, especially those with kids, to do an exercise. Take out some of the foods from your cupboards and show in teaspoons how much sugar is in each food. The pile of sugar you’ll be staring at in the end will probably surprise you.
I did this exercise with the parents of the kids I work with and many of them were shocked.
Sometimes there’s so much sugar in packaged foods, I wonder how there’s room for much else.
A normal fasting blood sugar is 70-100 mg/dL. 80 mg/dL equates to exactly one teaspoon of sugar.
80 milligrams per deciliter (tenth of a liter) of blood = 800 mg/L = 0.8 g/L.
A person contains about five liters of blood: 0.8 g/L* 5L = 4 grams = 1 teaspoon.
If you calculate the higher and lower end of the range, it’s about just under a teaspoon to 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of sugar.