Sugar Shock

Too much sugarRoses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet—and you may be eating way too much. It’s the newest diet warning: Added sugars are taking a toll on heart health.

The average American consumes more than 22 teaspoons or 355 calories of added sugars per day. That means sugars that are put into the foods you eat, rather than those that occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed products.

What’s so wrong with a sweet treat? Sugar provides fuel but has no other nutritional value. Eating more sugar than we need has been linked to:

  • Higher triglyceride and lower HDL “good” cholesterol levels
  • Tooth decay
  • Trouble controlling diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease

Most added sugars in our diets come from soft drinks and other beverages, candy, baked goods, and ice cream. They also lurk where you wouldn’t expect them: dairy products such as some yogurt, canned fruits and fruit drinks, and cereal.

Experts at the American Heart Association recommend women get no more than 100 calories a day from added sugars and men no more than 150 calories. To spot sugars, check food labels for amounts. Remember that 1 gram is about 4 calories. And look for these red-flag words in ingredient lists:

  • Cane juice or syrup
  • Corn sweetener or syrup
  • Dextrose, fructose, or glucose
  • Lactose or maltose
  • Molasses

Buy sugar-free or low-calorie beverages. Cut back on the amount of sugar you add to items like coffee and oatmeal.


Baking holiday treats? Reduce the amount of sugar you add by one-third to one-half. Add flavor with almond or vanilla extracts, or use spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

At WCHN, we provide expert, collaborative, multidisciplinary care for the full range of cardiovascular conditions, including those that affect the heart, heart valves and the vascular system. Find a heart or vascular specialist: