Is Sugar the New Tobacco?

A little over a year ago, as part of my breast cancer treatment and recovery, I met with a dietitian to talk about my diet, more specifically, my love of sweets. She had a few suggestions for me, but the one that hung in the air was to cut my sugar intake. I was a chocoholic. An ice cream addict. A sugar junkie. But, to get myself in the best health possibly, I pledge my allegiance to the Better Safe than Sorry camp and vowed to not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. This, my friends, is not impossible; it is actually quite doable.


The 25 gram recommendation is not a special medical diet. It is not a special diet of any type. I call it normal sugar consumption because it’s what the USDA recommends. For everyone. This is not a low sugar diet—it is what should be everybody’s norm. This information came to me from a registered dietitian affiliated with Duke University Health System, but take a look at some of the other resources who back it up as well:

The American Heart Association,, recommends limiting added sugars to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons (40 grams). The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup.

U.S. Department of Agriculture,, reiterates the 6 teaspoons for women/9 teaspoons for men guideline.

World Health Organization: reports that the WHO recommends a sugar intake of 5 percent of your daily calorie intake. For an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI), that works out to about 6 teaspoons–or 25 grams–of sugar per day.

I could go on, citing the Mayo Clinic, the LIVESTRONG organization, and medical journals, but I think you get my point—this is not me and a bunch of made-up websites making a crazy statement about sugar. This is the real deal folks.

If you’re still not taking this seriously, chew on this: it was in 1964 when the U.S. Surgeon General released the first report stating that cigarette smoking was a cause of lung and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women, and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis. Yes, the tobacco companies continued to market hard, and it seemed people turned a deaf ear to the information that could have saved lives. A lot of lives.

Today we have access to information every second of our lives. The food industry markets sugar even more aggressively than tobacco marketed cigarettes, but this time we have the data at our fingertips. No excuses. This time, shame on us for ignoring article after article, report upon report, and shaking our heads at the rate of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer in the U.S. as we pop open sodas, unwrap chocolate bars, and indulge in sweets on a daily basis. And that’s just our overt sugar intake. If you don’t take 15 seconds to read a food label, you’re likely ingesting even more sugar. For example, there are 10 grams of sugar in 1/2 cup of Prego Traditional Italian Sauce. That’s nearly half your allowance for the day ladies.

The bottom line is, I know too many people who have battled cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Some have won and some have not. You might argue that it’s genetics, and certainly there is that, but when the U.S. Government advises that sugar consumption is linked to each of these diseases, don’t you think we ought to listen? 1964 is when the government warned us about smoking and cancer. Few listened. I have to ask, is sugar the new tobacco?

Cheers to your health,

Five Foods that Taste Sweeter After I Nixed Sugar

It’s been over a year since I significantly reduced my sugar intake, and I am most surprised at how foods taste differently now. I used to consume a lot of sugar, and my guess is that I’m experiencing something akin to when a smoker kicks the habit and can finally taste something other than tar and nicotine. Now that my taste buds are free from their sugary shackles, these five foods taste sweeter to me than ever before.

  • Walnuts – I add these little gems to organic, unsweetened cereal and they make all the difference. I toss them on salads and into plain yogurt along with some raisins. Now I can taste their natural sweetness. Surprise! Even better, they contain omega-3 fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants.
  • Dark Chocolate (85% or higher) – what used to taste utterly bitter now tastes like sweet, cocoa decadence. When I sample milk chocolate, I can’t believe I ever ate that stuff; it tastes cheap, manufactured, and waxy. Dark chocolate not only tastes of indulgence, it’s high in vitamins and minerals, and studies have shown that it lowers your blood pressure and can harden tooth enamel.
  • Honey – I use it sparingly now because it tastes so sweet. While I used to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the bottle, now I barely drizzle and am just as satisfied.
  • Carrots – who knew carrots were sweet? Okay, you all knew it and I’m late to the party! Carrots are so delightfully sweet already, only a sugar addict would glaze them. And they’re loaded with beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A.
  • Butter – a good smear of butter on any kind of bread (white, wheat, whole grain) will calm my sweet tooth. Has to be the real deal though–no margarine for me. Butter has suffered a bad rap for decades, but is making a comeback due to new studies that indicate it’s not the criminal we once thought. We are, however, still advised to use butter in moderation.
Walnuts contain omega-3 fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants
Dark Chocolate with 88% Cocoa
3 ounces contains a total of 10 grams of sugar (that’s less than 0.6 grams per square)
In comparison, a 1.85 ounce Snickers bar contains 27 grams of sugar
Good old sweet, creamy butter
      So there you have it. Healthy foods that taste great and take care of sweet cravings when they hit. That’s a win-win-win in my cookbook. Happy eating!