How much sugar do we really need?

Posted at 7:22 AM, Oct 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-13 10:00:56-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- No matter how old we get, one of the best parts about Halloween is the candy. Unfortunately, sweets aren't the only place you'll find sugar. In fact, 74 percent of foods in grocery stores have added sugar in them.

Sugar is hiding in more foods than you'd think, such as pasta sauce, ketchup, even vegetables. That's bad news considering too much sugar leads to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Beth Eggleston, a health promotion educator at Holland Hosptial, tells FOX 17 the average American consumes roughly 20 teaspoons of sugar a day and 66 pounds of sugar a year.

20 "teaspoons" of sugar. Measurement not exact

Our bodies do need some sugar, especially if you're hitting the gym.

"Most people get way too much," she said. She agrees with the American Heart Association's recommendation that women consume no more than six teaspoons, or about 25 grams, of added sugar per day and men consume no more than nine teaspoons, or 36 grams.

The term "added sugars" refers to any sweetness that doesn't exist naturally in food. If you get your sugar from the wrong source, it could zap your energy, quick.

"When you eat fruit, it’s packaged with fiber. It doesn’t necessarily give you that big spike in your blood sugar like it would if you were eating candy or other processed foods that have added sugars," Eggleston said.

It turns out that our bodies process different types of sugar differently, burning glucose most efficiently. That means carbs and fruits are your best option for a pre-workout snack.

Apples at Ken's Fruit Market in Alger Heights

Apples at Ken's Fruit Market in Alger Heights

According to an article on CNN, if you want to power your muscles, you'll need lactose, the sugar found in milk. As for the sugar found in fruit juice and honey, it's called fructose, and having too much can make you gain weight.

But Eggleston says no matter what type the sugar, our bodies need it to survive.

"It’s our primary energy source," she said. "Our body needs that sugar to help create energy so we can go forth with the best of our ability."

If you want to figure out how much added sugar is in a product, take the grams of sugar on the food label, divide it by four, and that will give you the number of teaspoons.

Come next year, food labels will show how much added sugar is in a product.