How Much Sugar Per Day Is It Safe to Eat?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting daily added sugar intake to a maximum of 25 grams (g), or 6 teaspoons (tsp), for people assigned female at birth and 36 g, or 9 tsp, for people assigned male at birth.
However, the amount of sugar you can safely consume in a day varies greatly from person to person. This is because it can depend on individual factors, such as your underlying health.
This article discusses how much sugar per day it is safe to eat, including the difference between natural and added sugars. It also addresses why limiting sugar may be important, how to limit sugar, and some frequently asked questions about the daily recommended amount of sugar.
Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. This article uses the terms “female” and “male” to refer to sex that was assigned at birth.
Learn more about the difference between sex and gender.
Sugar is present in many natural and whole foods. This is known as natural sugar and can be present in foods such as:
- dairy products, such as milk
- starchy foods, such as bread or rice
Added sugars are sugars that may be added to food during production. You may find added sugars in foods such as:
- hot and cold drinks, such as soda
- baked goods, desserts, and candy
- pre-prepared food, such as:
Added sugars, also known as “free” sugars, can have various names. You may see them on food labels as:
- raw or brown sugar
- syrup, such as corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup
- cane juice
- fruit nectars
While both types of sugars can affect your blood sugar levels, added sugars may carry a particular risk to health. This is because added sugars do not provide nutrients but can provide more calories. Additionally, foods containing added sugars may have higher or more concentrated sugar levels than some foods containing only natural sugars.
Sugar is a carbohydrate, an important nutrient as the body uses it for energy. As a result, natural sugars and small amounts of added sugars can fit into an otherwise balanced diet.
The AHA recommends the following maximum limits on daily intake of added sugar from food or beverages:
|Group||Maximum sugar intake per day|
|male adults||9 tsp, or about 1.5 ounces (oz)|
|female adults||6 tsp, or about 1 oz|
|children 2–18 years old||6 tsp, or about 1 oz|
The AHA also recommends that children under age 2 should not have any added sugars at all.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends further limiting sugar intake to less than 10% of a person’s daily calorie intake. For example, according to this guidance, someone eating 2,000 calories daily would not consume more than 200 calories from sugar. This is around 50 g, or 1.7 oz, of sugar.
For additional health benefits, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests keeping added sugars to less than 5% of your daily calorie intake.
In addition to limiting added sugars, the USDA recommends that around 45–65% of your daily calories come from carbohydrate foods. This can help allow space in your diet for other important nutrients, such as protein and healthy fats.
You can estimate your daily recommended calorie and nutrient intake using the USDA’s online calculator.
Read more about carbohydrates, other nutrients, and eating a balanced diet.
Contact your doctor or a dietitian for individualized advice
How much sugar per day is safe for you to consume can depend on individual factors, such as whether you have any underlying conditions.
For example, people with diabetes may have sugar and nutritional requirements that are unique to them.
As a result, if you think you could benefit from limiting your sugar intake, contact your doctor or a licensed dietitian, if you have access to one, for advice. It is also advisable to seek advice from a doctor or dietitian before making any substantial changes to your diet.
Consuming too much sugar can increase the chance of experiencing some of the following conditions:
- Obesity: Sugar can be high in calories without providing important nutrients. Evidence from 2020 suggests that diets high in added sugar may contribute to the development of obesity, which itself is a risk factor for further conditions.
- Impaired dental health: Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and produce an acid that can damage the tooth enamel. This may cause cavities or tooth decay.
- Insulin resistance and diabetes: This occurs when the body does not respond properly to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use sugar for energy. Insulin resistance may lead to uncontrolled blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease: The body may turn excess sugar into fat. This may contribute to higher cholesterol, inflammation levels, and blood pressure, as well as increase other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
If you wish to limit your sugar intake, the following tips may help:
- Check food packet labels for added sugar amounts.
- If some of your favorite foods contain high sugar levels, eat them in moderation. Cutting them out completely may make maintaining a balanced diet more difficult.
- Decrease serving sizes of sugary foods.
- Prioritize consuming whole foods instead of highly processed or preprepared foods.
- Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages or replace them with water or drinks with no added sugar.
- Add flavor to your food with other condiments or ingredients, such as vanilla, orange, or almond extracts.
You can spot foods that do not contain high levels of added sugar by looking for labels that say “no added sugar” or “unsweetened.”
Marie Lorraine Johnson, MS, RD, CPT, has reviewed the following frequently asked questions.
What is the daily sugar allowance for women?
The daily sugar allowance for females is about 6 tsp, or 25 g, of sugar per day.
What are signs of eating too much sugar?
Research suggests that symptoms of eating too much sugar may include:
- feeling tired or fatigued
- having acne
- experiencing symptoms of depression
- being overweight or experiencing weight gain
Read more about the symptoms and causes of depression.
How do you flush sugar out of your body?
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that the body uses as a source of energy. As a result, it may be possible to burn this energy from sugar with exercise. This may prevent the sugar from remaining in the body and being converted into fat.
Consuming too much sugar can negatively affect health, such as increasing the risk of certain conditions. Added sugars may particularly present a risk, as they can be in high concentrations and offer fewer nutrients than natural sugars.
As a result, medical institutions recommend limiting sugar to a maximum of 5% of your total daily calorie intake.
However, the safest sugar intake level can vary depending on individual factors. For example, those with underlying conditions such as diabetes may have individual dietary needs.
Due to this, contact your doctor or a licensed dietitian for advice on what nutritional patterns may be safe and effective for you.