You're Eating Way More Sugar Than You Think

Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
According to the American Heart Association, women should have no more than 6 teaspoons (25 g) of sugar per day, and men 9 teaspoons (37.5g). But, the average American is consuming closer to 20 teaspoons per day without even realizing it. Why? Well, basically we’re being duped. Laurie David, the executive producer of the documentary Fed Up, explained to us, “Manufacturers try to trick you by measuring [sugar] in grams, which no one has any clue what that means. Here is the simple equation to memorize: 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon. Learn that and you will be shocked by the amount of sugar in a lot of seemingly harmless products.” 

Reducing our sugar intake can be hard. Consumption of sugar releases "pleasure hormones" in our brains, like dopamine. It's also been shown that eating simple carbs (like refined sugar) boosts our serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter that plays a role in making us feel happy. And, considering 95% of our body's serotonin is found in our bowels, we have to battle both our brains and our bellies when it comes to sugar cravings.

Here are a few tricks for how to reduce your sugar intake, without making any major lifestyle adjustments.  

Try a nutritional reset. 
Try to eat no added sugar, even for just one week, and take notes on how you feel. Last summer I cut out sugar for 30 days to get a sense of how reliant I really was, and to experiment with eating healthier. This winter, I embarked on another 60-day journey and documented it all on I’m amazed at how I feel — I have more consistent energy (no more sudden dips), clearer skin, and a more settled stomach. If you’re looking for a ton of free resources, recipes, and frameworks, that site is one place to help get you started. has also partnered up with Conscious Box to create a Sugar Detox Survival Kit that curates a box of sugar-free goodies for people to try. The box goes on sale in April.   

Eliminate or significantly reduce fruit juices and other sugary beverages.
According to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, nearly half of total sugar intake comes from these sources. If you eliminate these from your diet (including all your juice cleanses!), that’s half the battle! 

Cut out salsas, sauces, and packaged salad dressings.

Over a quarter of our sugar intake typically comes from these sugary substances. Instead, try making your own condiments.

Pack your own lunch!

This may come as no surprise, but cooking for ourselves gives us more control over what we eat. If you don’t have the time, try prepping your meals beforehand. Hard-boiling eggs at night for tomorrow’s breakfast, cutting veggies to roast later — these small habits will add up to good health in the long run.      

More from Food & Drinks