On its own, a bit of the sweet stuff isn’t so bad. “But it’s in many foods with little nutritional benefit,” says Toby Smithson, a dietitian in Lake County, Illinois, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That means excess calories, which puts you at risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The middle ground: New guidelines from the American Heart Association state that women should have no more than 100 calories of added sugar a day, or about six teaspoons (this is in addition to the sugar that occurs naturally in whole foods, like fruit and dairy products). And in general it’s wise to scan food labels to manage your sugar intake, Goodson says. Look at the grams of carbohydrates; if sugar accounts for half of those grams or more, you’re probably better off skipping the item.