How Much Sugar Can I Have In One Day?


Everyone is under the impression that sugar is the devil. Sugar needs to be eliminated from the diet. What happens? Sugar is then eliminated from an individual’s diet for an extended period of time before he/she gives up. Sugar creeps back into the diet and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Does sugar intake affect skin health? Yes. Sugar intake is a factor. If you have too much sugar in your diet, sugar breaks down collagen. Collagen is the substance in your face that keeps your skin looking plump and youthful. Too much sugar can also weaken your immune system. If you have a weakened immune system, bacteria can get into your pores. As a result, your pores become clogged with bacteria and pimples are created.

It would be ideal if added sugar sources could be kept to a minimum; however, it is not always possible given the social events we all attend from time to time.

The common question is: Am I allowed to have sugar?

As a Registered Dietitian, the first line of recommendation is: keep your added sugar intake to a minimum.

A lot of individuals are under the impression that honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and brown sugar are much better for you then regular sugar. Are any of these options really better than refined white sugar?



  • It is famous for its antimicrobial properties.
    • Not all honey is created the same. If you want to look for honey with strong antimicrobial properties, look for Manuka Honey with Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) levels between 15-20+.
      • Have you ever visited the honey man at St. Lawrence Market? He can definitely give you a lesson on all types of honey. I’ve never seen someone so passionate and in love with honey. He lets you taste as much as honey as you want but each time he gives you a spoonful, he also eats a spoonful.
  • Honey also contains antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals.

Maple Syrup:

maple syrup

  • contains some antioxidants
  • contains some trace minerals (E.g. zinc and manganese)

Coconut Sugar:

  • Lower Glycemic Index (GI) value as it contains inulin   coconut sugar

Brown Sugar:

  • Is brown sugar really better for you than white sugar? After all, it gets its brown colouring from molasses. The amount of molasses added to brown sugar is minimal; therefore, are you really getting a good amount of calcium, magnesium iron and potassium?

brown sugar

BOTTOM LINE: Sugar is sugar even if it comes from natural sources. Don’t go crazy with the amount. No matter the type of sugar you use, use in a controlled amount.

The American Heart Association recommends women can have up to 6 added teaspoons of sugar/day and a man can have up to 9 added teaspoons of sugar/day. On the other hand, the World Health Organization states that an adult within a healthy body weight range can have up to 6 added teaspoons of sugar/day.

What does 6 or 9 added teaspoons of sugar/day mean? Every teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams of carbohydrate. Therefore, a woman can have up to 24 grams of added sugar/day and a man can have up to 36 grams of added sugar/day.

It is ideal if you enjoy plain (unflavoured) yogurt with some fresh fruit and some nuts or seeds (e.g. almond slivers/ chia seeds) with an additional teaspoon of honey or maple syrup you add yourself; however, if a little container of flavoured yogurt is going to prevent you from snacking on other sweets (e.g. cookies and/or chocolate), I’m okay with you having this type of snack. Why? Research shows that it is the sugar from sugar sweetened beverages that link to weight gain. If a bit of added sugar helps you choke down your yogurt, so be it. If you do end up eating a pre-flavoured yogurt, the sugar content on the label goes toward your added sugar intake for the day.

Rowena’s General Recommendation:

  • Cookies: Look for options that have ~2 grams of sugar per cookie
  • Cereals/ Granola Bars: Look for options that have ~6 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Don’t add any sugar into your coffee or tea

The Question You Need To Ask Yourself: When focusing on the sugar content in a food product, is this added sugar or natural sugar? Some products will have a high sugar content given that the base of the product is made from dried fruit (e.g. dates).

Keep in mind all fruits have natural fructose. Each standard of serving of fresh fruit (e.g. one apple or one small banana) has 15 grams of carbohydrate. Having dried fruit can help increase fibre, iron and potassium intake; however, overindulge in dried fruit and you can have too much natural sugar.

What are some types of sugar you should be wary of?

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS):

  • This product is made from breaking down corn into glucose. Half the glucose is then chemically changed into fructose.
  • In Canada, the label may say “Glucose-Fructose”
  • It’s cheaper than sugar and added to many ready made food items (e.g. soft drinks, baked good, cereals, canned fruit)

Sugar Alcohols:

  • Examples include: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erthyritol
  • Naturally found in some fruits and vegetables;  can also be made through a process using sucrose, glucose or starch
  • Not completely absorbed by the body; therefore, overconsumption can cause feelings of bloating and/or gas
  • Note: An intake of more than 50 grams/day of sorbitol and 20 grams/day of mannitol can cause diarrhea.

Food For Thought: When reading the label for food items, pick items where you recognize the ingredients on the ingredient list. Now that you know every teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams of carbohydrate, how many teaspoons are you comfortable in having for one serving? With the products you are choosing, how many have sugar coming from natural sources (i.e. dried fruit) vs. how many have added sugar sources (E.g. honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, cane sugar,  high fructose corn syrup)?

Remember: A woman can have up to 6 added teaspoons of sugar/day (24 grams/day) and a man can have up to 9 added teaspoons of sugar/day (36 grams/day). Even that teaspoon of sugar that goes into your coffee or tea every morning counts towards your daily intake of added sugar.

Still not sure how to put this recommendation into action? Stay tuned for my post on Saturday to see what products I recommend and where I go and pick out sweets! 🙂

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