How Do You Take Your Coffee, One Lump or Ten?

Question: How much sugar is too much sugar? How do you even measure too much? Is it in grams, teaspoons, tablespoons, or spoonfuls (which I believe helps the medicine go down)?

I was at a certain restaurant chain this morning eating my second breakfast when two men came in for coffee. This is the exchange I heard between them.

Man 1: How do you take your coffee?
Man 2: Eight sugars and a creamer.

Did I hear this correctly? Eight sugars and a creamer? Uh-uh, I misheard, right?!

Man 1: (Very matter-of-fact) Eight sugars and a creamer?
Man 2: Yeah, eight sugars and a creamer.

Yep, I heard that correctly.

Honestly, before hearing this, I couldn’t have told you how much sugar is too much. I typically just recommend minimizing or eliminating the intake of added sugar, i.e., adding packets, teaspoons, or “pumps”.

So, what’s the answer to how much sugar is too much? Answer: Well, it depends. (Don’t you hate that?) But to keep it simple, let’s overlook a person’s genetics, activity level, carbohydrate sensitivity, and whatever other factors are in play. We’ll use “Average American”, or AA for short.

AA consumes . . . no, wait, let’s begin with what AA “should” consume. According to the USDA, AA should consume no more than 10 teaspoons (40g) per day.

Okay, so how much does AA consume? Guess. C’mon, guess. Close. AA consumes 34 teaspoons (136g) of added sugar per day. Thirty-four seems like a lot, but I was thinking, how many tablespoons is that? A little over eleven. Four tablespoons equal a quarter cup. That means AA, per day, consumes nearly three-quarter cups of sugar. I don’t care how poor your diet is. If I put three-quarter cups of sugar in front of you and said to consume it by day’s end, you’d [hopefully] say that ain’t right.

For this post, I’m gonna pretend you’re like, “So what. What’s so bad about sugar?”

Chronic high-sugar intake reduces the body’s ability to handle carbs. This can lead to, at best, love handles and, at worst, full-blown diabetes. What’s so bad about diabetes?

Diabetes has been linked to the following:

  • Premature aging (The average life-expectancy of a diabetic is two-thirds that of a non-diabetic.)
  • Cancer
  • Retinopathy (mild vision problems to blindness)
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Vascular disease
  • Erectile dysfunction (uh, men)
  • Kidney disease
  • Joint pain and arthritis

That’s some ugly stuff, yeah?

So, how does one avoid added sugar. The simplest [and best] option is to eat a diet rich in lean proteins, colorful fruits and veggies, complex or “smart” carbs, and healthy fats. A next better option may be to read food labels and begin minimizing or eliminating foods that have additional sugars, e.g., sucrose, corn syrup, honey, cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and maple sugar.

If you know me at all, I still enjoy the occasional food that has added sugar. And I encourage clients to continue to enjoy the occasional food as well. But EIGHT packets of sugar in your coffee? (Admittedly, I wanna try it. I’m too curious to know what that tastes like!) But, hey, I never asked this man his goals. His goal may be to not see, walk, or “perform” in the bedroom. If so, go for it!

Question: Have you any idea how much added sugar you consume daily?  What are some of the greatest offenders?  Can you think of a way to minimize, substitute, or altogether eliminate them?