12 Teaspoons a Day


That’s the amount of sugar we’re being advised to consume as per the new dietary guidelines that were released yesterday.

And yes, twelve teaspoons of sugar is less than what the average American currently consumes on a daily basis, 22 teaspoons, or three pounds per week[1], but is ingesting ¼ cup each day really part of an overall healthy eating plan?

While one might argue it’s a step in the right direction, the issue with sugar is different from most other foods (and cringe as I refer to white sugar as a food) one might choose to consume.

Simple; sugar is a drug.

More addictive than cocaine and heroin according to research[2], yet 100% legal and far too easily accessible to anyone and everyone…everywhere.

As one researcher commented, “Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/ high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability.”

Don’t fool yourself by thinking you’re in the clear because you don’t happen to stir sugar into your morning cup of Joe; the white stuff is literally everywhere.

74% of packaged foods sold to us in the US contain added sugar and there are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels including sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, among others.

While product labels list total sugar content, manufacturers are not required to say whether that total includes added sugar, which makes it difficult to know how much of the total comes from added sugar and how much is naturally occurring in ingredients such as fruit or milk. That makes it very difficult to account for how much added sugar we’re consuming[3].

So what’s the answer?

Cutting out packaged foods completely would do the trick.

Not only that, but if we were to collectively reduce the demand of products from the food industry (does it not alarm you that it’s an industry? That alone is frightening to me) by simply not buying it, we could make the message loud and clear that we’re not going to stand for this nonsense anymore.

Never in a million years would someone battling an addiction to all other substances we legally and officially recognize as being a drug be advised they could have a little now and then.

Yet we expect the 60 million Americans who are overweight or even obese[4] to be able to ingest the very substance they’re addicted to, which is the same exact drug making them fat and sick in the first place, in moderation.

Thanks for that, USDA!

In addition to this sage piece of advice, to only consume ¼ cup of white sugar per day, the decision was to keep us in the dark in terms of some other recommendations put forth by an advisory board.

In an article[5] published yesterday, NPR shared that “top administration officials within the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, who were tasked with writing the guidelines, decided not to include some of the recommendations made by a Dietary Guidelines advisory panel that reviewed the latest nutrition science”.

Just what were these recommendations?

That consumers might want to consider sustainability a factor in making food choices.

Oh, and that Americans should perhaps cut back on processed meats. Both, however, were deemed not worthy of being included in current, updated recommendations of what we should be thinking about when we choose what we put into our bodies.

Other suggestions from the new model include:

  • A shift to getting more protein from seafood and legumes (yet no mention of making sure the seafood is sustainable)
  • Limiting cholesterol intake to no more than 300 mg per day
  • Limiting sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day
  • Reducing saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of daily diet

While keeping one’s intake of sodium in check is clearly important, the general advice we continue to receive on saturated fat and cholesterol being the devil raises a lot of concern when more and more research is showing that it’s not eating natural fat and cholesterol that is the issue; it’s the refined carbs that cause the most damage.

As the article points out, this is doubly concerning as these guidelines have clear implications for federal nutrition policy, influencing everything from the national school lunch program to the advice you get at the doctor’s office. But they are written for nutrition professionals, not the general public.

It does beg the question, however as to how many people are even listening?

As the Dietary Guidelines Report[6] points out, three-fourths of Americans don’t even eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.

So we’re getting biased information from our professionals who also received the same biased information.

And we’re picking apart little pieces of it that we want to believe in, like the fantasy that it’s ok or even good to eat sugar in moderation.

Where does it stop?

First- an acknowledgement that the advice we’ve been getting is not working.

It’s making our nation fat and sick.

The advice isn’t given to us in our best interest; think of it as a brilliant marketing campaign led by the key sponsors of the USDA[7] which include Coca Cola, Pepsico, Kellogg’s, General Mills, The National Dairy Council and Campbell’s.

They have a product to sell and what better way to get people to buy it than to have a nationwide team of professionals telling them they need it?

Sad state of affairs.

Do we view these updated guidelines, then, as progress?

I suppose it’s still a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean for one second that we can afford to not continue to do our own due diligence.

Educate yourself; find what fresh, whole foods are available to you where you live and eat them in balance.

Avoid packaged foods to the best of your ability. And do your part to help spread the word.

We can make change if we stick together!






[1] Walton, Alice. “How Much Sugar Are Americans Eating?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016

[2] Sullum, Jacob. “Research Shows Cocaine And Heroin Are Less Addictive Than Oreos.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016

[3] “Hidden in Plain Sight.” SugarScience.org. N.p., 17 Nov. 2013. Web. 08 Jan. 2016

[4] “Overweight and Obesity Statistics.” Overweight and Obesity Statistics. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016

[5] “New Dietary Guidelines Crack Down On Sugar. But Red Meat Gets A Pass.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016

[6] “Advisory Report.” Report Index. Dietary Guidelines, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016

[7] “New Study: Big Food’s Ties to Registered Dietitians.” Food Politics New Study Big Foods Ties to Registered Dietitians Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016