You're (Probably) Eating Way Too Much Sugar

New guidelines will put you into a legitimate sugar shock.

cut-back-on-sugar
Photo by antonios mitsopoulos/Getty Images

Americans have a serious sugar problem. The average American consumes more than 19 teaspoons of it each day, according to the CDC. That's equivalent to nearly five full-sized candy bars. For most of us, that means we consume between 11 and 15 percent of our calories from the sweet stuff. And for children, it's more like 16 percent. Yet according to new guidelines from WHO, that number is way too high. People should really aim to limit their sugar intake to between five and 10 percent of their total calories.

While sugar occurs naturally in many healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and milk, it's when we start adding it to everything else in the form of processed foods and extra-sweet drinks that we start to see health issues. “Sugar has a bad reputation that’s mostly deserved because we consume too much of it. It’s now in just about every food we eat,” Dr. Kristina Rother, an NIH pediatrician and expert on sweeteners said in an NIH newsletter.

Eating too much sugar can lead to major health problems. Sugar can increase your risk of dying from heart disease, contribute to fat in your liver, and may make your skin age faster. Too much sugar can even make it harder for your brain to learn and memorize information, according to researchers at UCLA. It can also rot your teeth and damage your blood vessels, The Washington Post reports. Sugary drinks, specifically, have been linked with higher obesity rates. The more of it we eat, the less healthy we become.

The bottom line? It's time to commit to cutting down on sugar. If you're looking for ways to dial back, know the basics: Avoid sweets and soda, which can pack a whopping 40 grams into one 12-ounce drink. But it's also important to keep an eye out for yogurt, sports drinks, and other "healthy" foods that can be secretly packed with sugar. And remember that sugar and sweeteners can sneakily go by many aliases, including molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey, so read labels carefully. No matter what it's called, it's definitely time to kick the sugar habit.