How much sugar is too much sugar?

We’re pretty sure you’ve heard that in general, we’re all eating way too much of the sweet stuff. But have you ever stopped to think about exactly how much is too much sugar? Let’s look at the stats. 

Added sugar vs natural sugar 

First off, it’s really important to make the distinction between natural sugars – that’s the sugars that naturally occurring in whole foods like fruit and veg that comes wrapped up with plenty of fibre, water and nutrients (thanks, nature!) – and the added sugar food companies add in bucketloads to pretty much anything processed. 

It’s added sugar – think plain ol’ white stuff, or high fructose corn syrup – that we’re mainly talking about when we tally up sugar consumption. 

The recommendations 

Guidelines from the World Health Organisation recommend that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. “Free sugars” include added sugars, as well as the sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

WHO goes one step further, encouraging a reduction to below 5% – or roughly 6 teaspoons per day – to provide additional health benefits. 

To put that in perspective, a teaspoon of tomato sauce contains about one teaspoon of added sugar, while a single can of soft drink can contain up to 10! 

Something to remember is that there is 4.2 grams in a teaspoon of the sweet stuff. So an easy rule of thumb when calculating the teaspoons of sugar in any given food is to divide the total number on the back of the package by 4. 

The average Aussie 

Now comes the not-so-great news. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian consumes around 14 teaspoons of free sugars per day, well above the WHO-recommended healthy level.

This kind of sugar consumption puts many of us at risk of obesity and related chronic health problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, not to mention the cavities! Is it time you stopped to think about your sugar consumption, and perhaps look at cutting down?