Added sugar: The pandemic we forgot about 

One of most common additives with ill effects

It’s safe to say that we all love sugar, but there’s a particular emphasis on Americans when we discuss the depth of this one-sided love. 

Before we get too deeply into this discussion,  let’s not start blaming the wrong sugar for having an affair with everyone’s pancreas. That is, we need to differentiate between added sugars and natural sugars. 

Natural sugars occur in things like apples, oranges, and most other fruits and vegetables. Added sugars are sugars that are, as the name suggests, added during the processing of foods. 

Specifically, the federal Food and Drug Administration  classifies added sugars as foods packaged as sweeteners and “sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.” 

I want you to imagine a day where you wake up and decide to eat the least possible amount of sugar in your day, or at least try to avoid everything artificially sweetened. You grab a piece of Dave’s Killer Bread to make some plain toast. Next, you grab some lettuce and mix in some dressing. 

What a great, sugar-free breakfast, right? Sadly, the answer is no. 

Most supermarket bread, unless specified otherwise, contains an average of 2 to 6 grams of sugar per slice (6 grams when using our reference bread, Dave’s Killer Bread). French dressing has an average of 2.6 grams of sugar per tablespoon, and who uses only a tablespoon? 

Assuming you ate one slice of the brand I mentioned and used two tablespoons of dressing. you’ve consumed roughly 46% of the daily recommended maximum for sugar (26grams), and you haven’t even had lunch yet. 

Also, did I mention the ideal added sugar intake per day? It’s zero. Mistaking the maximum for a recommended serving size isn’t wise.

Everyone’s diet varies, and the example I gave wasn’t to say everyone should avoid Dave’s Killer Bread but rather a general idea of the insidious problem we are facing. 

Sugar is no longer the relatively rare ingredient it was years ago. 

According to the American Heart Association, American adults consume an average of 77grams of sugar per day. That is nearly three times the recommended daily maximum for women (26 grams) and two times that for men (36 grams). 

America’s consumption of sugar wasn’t always this way. A graph by Whole Health Source shows America’s average sugar consumption dating back to 1882. This graph provides a good visualization of how sugar is becoming more prominent in our diet as time passes. 

In 1882, the average amount of sugar a typical person consumed in a year was 6.3 pounds, in complete contrast to our current average of 60 pounds of just added sugar that a typical person consumes per year. 

These numbers don’t serve as an idle comparison — they’ve proven to be as damaging as they sound. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 children born in 2000 in the United States will develop diabetes. Keep in mind, the disease isn’t directly caused by sugar consumption, but sugar can be a contributor. And it’s not just diabetes — sugar has a direct relationship to obesity and heart diseases, which are all on the rise. 

So what does this mean for us? 

We cannot just, and probably will not, throw away everything with added sugar in it. And realistically speaking, there isn’t much we can do except check the nutrition facts on the back of everything we eat and do the math. 

There are 50-plus different names for sugar, and numerous ways companies create loopholes by using terms like natural sugar and added sugar interchangeably. All in an attempt to trick you into thinking what you’re drinking or eating is healthier than it actually is. 

Sugar isn’t the only added ingredient in processed foods that’s bad for your health, but it is one of the most common ones. It’s important to know what you’re putting into your body. The process of avoiding excess sugar starts by being aware of what you eat and what it contains.