Sweetness has a nearly universal appeal. Sugar – both natural and processed – is a type of simple carbohydrate that your body breaks down to produce energy. Sugar occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. In general terms, there is no reason to avoid sugar that occurs naturally in these sources because they also contain fiber, nutrients and other beneficial compounds. Rather, the concern about sugar consumption arises in the context of “added sugar.”
Added sugar includes various forms of sugar and syrups that are added to food, especially packaged foods during processing. The primary sources of added sugars for most Americans are found in desserts, sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks. But sugar is also added to most processed foods – from sauces to condiments, to soups, to fruit juices, to meat products. In fact, the University of California at San Francisco estimates that sugar is added to 74% of all processed foods. Manufacturers argue that sugar is added for a number of different reasons, including for flavor, texture and color in baked goods; as a preservative in jams and jellies; to fuel fermentation in bread; as a bulking agent in baked goods and ice cream; and to balance acidity in foods containing tomatoes or vinegar.
Even if you pay attention to food labels, however, it can still be difficult to determine whether sugar has been added to a product just by looking at the list of ingredients. Indeed, a recent article in the New York Times identified 83 different ingredients that essentially mean “added sugar,” plus an additional 64 “fruit concentrates” that mean the same thing.
How Much Added Sugar is Too Much?
Greg Bishop, an attorney in Park City, Utah, explains that the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – recommends that added sugar should not exceed 10% of your daily calories. For a 2000-calorie diet, that means that only 200 calories should come from added sugar. He notes, however, that the American Heart Association’s guidelines are even more strict – less than 150 calories of added sugar per day for men, and 100 calories for women.
Recently, the Federal Drug Administration revised the labeling requirements for processed foods to make it more apparent when sugar has been added to a product. Below is an example of the differences between the old labeling and the new labeling requirements for a hypothetical product. As illustrated, the new requirements mandate that manufacturers list not only the total amount of sugar but also how much comes from added sugar.
Unfortunately, manufacturers are still permitted under the new regulations to list sugar in terms of grams, rather than in more useful categories (such as calories) or a more common measurement (such as teaspoons). One way to understand how much sugar has been added to a product is to use the “rule of 4.” To calculate the number of calories from sugar, multiply the number of grams by 4; to determine the number of teaspoons of sugar, divide the number of grams by 4. For example, 50 grams of sugar equals 200 calories (50 grams times 4). Similarly, 50 grams of sugar equals 12.5 teaspoons of sugar (50 grams divided by 4).
According to the Sugar Association, in 2015-2016, on average, U.S. adults received over 13% of their daily calories from added sugar, down from over 18% in 1999-2000. While the trend is positive, the 13% still exceeds the 10% limit set out in the dietary guidelines, not to mention the stricter recommendations of the American Heart Association.
Retirement is Sweet Enough
Attorney Greg Bishop suggests that retirement is sweet enough without all that additional sugar. He suggests the most effective way to reduce sugar intake is to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods. He argues that one of the advantages of having more time in retirement is that you can be more purposeful about all aspects of your life, including your dietary habits.
About Greg Bishop, Attorney | Greg Bishop is a business-oriented corporate attorney who always strives for improvement. He makes it a practice to only hire people who are smarter than him so that his team can raise the bar in helping the company be successful. Currently residing in Park City, Utah, he is passionate about living life to the fullest and helping others reach their full potential.