Food Guidelines Include New 10% Limit on Sugar

Richard Gawel


In their 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend a limit of less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars. This is the first time that the government has suggested a specific limit on sugar consumption.

The HHS and USDA define added sugars as sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. They are primarily found in found in soft drinks, candy, pastries, ice cream, and other sweets. Examples include brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, honey, lactose, maple syrup, molasses, nectars, and sucrose.

In addition to promoting tooth decay, these sugars add calories without contributing essential nutrients, making it difficult for people to meet nutrient needs while staying within recommended calorie limits. By reducing added sugars in their diet, people also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

Naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk and fruit would not count toward the 10% recommended limit. Overall, the guidelines suggest more vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, various protein foods like seafood and lean meats, and oils from plants such as canola, corn, olive, and peanut.

“What most people don’t know is that even a small shift can make a big difference as you move into a healthy eating pattern. So, moving away from refined grains to whole grain or from sugar-sweetened beverages to unsweetened beverages,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Karen DeSalvo.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are now available. The USDA also offers, which helps people find a healthy eating style and maintain it throughout their lifetime. These eating styles should focus on variety, amount, and nutrition while eliminating saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

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