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1 in 3 Americans Consume Sugary Drinks Every Day

June 02, 2016

The average American consumes a lot of sugar — 20 teaspoons every day, to be exact. 

That added sugar comes from several different sources, including breakfast pastries and desserts. However, beverages are the main culprit. A new U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) survey indicates that most Americans drink way too many sugary drinks every day.  

The survey, conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, found that nearly one-third of Americans drink at least one sugary soda or fruit drink every day. On average, these drinks contain between eight and 12 teaspoons of sugar per serving, which nearly exceeds the recommended daily allowance of 6-9 teaspoons a day according to the American Heart Association.

Similarly, the new dietary guidelines recently released from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for Americans to limit their sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of daily calories, allowing for 12.5 teaspoons of sugar based on an average intake of 2,000 calories per day. Unfortunately, too many people still consume far above that amount. Think about it — on an average day you probably have multiple cups of coffee with a few packets of sugar plus flavored creamer, soda or sweet tea, and fruit juice. This doesn’t even factor in the hidden sugar you might consume from condiments like ketchup, spaghetti sauce or barbecue sauce. Not to mention doughnuts, pastries, granola bars, cereal, desserts and more. 

Sugar is everywhere, which makes tracking and controlling your intake more difficult. Plus, sugar sweetened beverages are so heavily marketed — and so readily available — that they almost seem like a normal part of a healthy diet. And if you think artificial sweeteners are a good alternative, even these products aren’t the best thing for a healthy diet. Artificial sweeteners are chemically manufactured, typically only safe in small amounts, and some are linked to safety concerns.

Certain demographics and areas of the country consume sugary drinks more often than other groups, the study found. For example, 18- to 24-year olds and men were most likely to consume at least one sugary beverage a day. The survey, which included 23 states and Washington, D.C., also found that the Northeast and the South has the highest rate of daily intake of sugary beverages. About 68 percent of adults in the Northeast consumed a sugary drink every day, while nearly 67 percent of adults in the South did so. Overall, southern states had the highest consumption among all states in the survey, with Mississippi coming in first among all the 23 states surveyed (Florida was not included in the survey). 

Sugar isn’t just bad for you because it causes cavities, it also increases your risk for type 2 diabetes and inflammation. Studies have shown that added sugar increases your risk of death from heart disease, as well. Added sugar, which is found in about 74 percent of packaged goods, also can stall weight loss because we tend to consume too much of it — it accounts for 13 percent of the average American’s daily calorie intake.

When it comes to sugar, less is better, including natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, molasses, honey, agave, and coconut sugar.   All of these sweeteners, whether truly natural or not, should be used sparingly. They provide empty calories with virtually no vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants, and don’t come close to the wealth of nutrients that fresh, whole foods provide.  When baking, swap sugar for applesauce, or  pureed dates or bananas.  When sweetening tea try a squeeze of lemon or lime.  For coffee, add a splash of milk or light cream which is naturally sweet tasting due to lactose.  Swap sugar-filled sodas or juice for water whenever you can — even once a day is a good goal. Substitute pastries, cakes and cookies for berries and other fruits, or if this is too difficult, start by eating less of these sweets than you normally would.  Small substitutions can make a world of difference and help you curb your sugar intake.