Guidelines for Reducing Sugar Intake

Too much sugar is not healthy for anyone. In particular, cancer patients, cancer survivors, and those trying to prevent cancer must eat a nutrient rich diet. Eating large amounts of sugar can take the place of other healthy foods. Excessive sugar intake increases the production of insulin, a hormone in the body that will store unused sugar as fat. Too much sugar causes energy to spike and then leads to fatigue. Excessive sugar intake promotes tooth decay. Eating too much sugar weakens the immune system by causing white blood cells to be sluggish and infringes on their ability to fight infections and disease. Sugar is often hidden in foods and can be found in a variety of forms. Without adding any additional sugar to our food, we often consume more than our body needs. So how much sugar is too much sugar?  What are some ways to decrease sugar in a healthy way? Here are some tips and guidelines regarding sugar intake:

  1. Limit foods that contain added sugar.

This is an easy place to start. These foods are “extras” that the body doesn’t need on a regular basis. Food and drinks that contain added sugar include sugar sweetened soft drinks, fruit flavored drinks, sweetened dairy drinks such as flavored milk and smoothies, ice cream, sweetened yogurt, candy, sweetened grains such as cereals, cookies, pies, cakes, and other desserts.

  1. Learn the many names for sugar.

Words that end in “-ose” are all forms of sugar. For example, sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose are all forms of sugar.  Other forms of sugar include corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, fruit juice concentrate, and honey. Look for these in the ingredient list and read the nutrition facts label noting the grams of sugar per serving.

  1. Calculate calories from sugar.

There are 4 calories in 1 gram of sugar. If a food has 15 grams of sugar per serving then it has 60 (15 x 4) calories that come from sugar. This does not even include the calories from other ingredients.

  1. Set a limit on added sugar.

According to the American Heart Association, no more than 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men should come from added sugar. This is the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons of sugar per day for men. Keep in mind that some foods naturally contain sugar like fresh fruit, 100% fruit juice and some dairy products like milk and plain yogurt. These foods can be nutritious and do not need to be limited.  Limit foods that contain added sugar in the ingredient list.

  1. Remove the temptation to add sugar to food and beverages.

Put away the sugar bowl, the honey jar, syrup bottle, sweetened coffee creamers, etc. Not having these available will make it easier to resist the temptation to add them. Treat these the same way as the salt shaker if trying to limit extra salt in the diet.

  1. Make gradual steps to reduce daily sugar consumption.

Cutting drastic amounts of sugar out of the diet all at once will be difficult to tackle and maintain. Start simple by reducing the amount of added sugar to coffee or tea by half. Flavor coffee and tea with milk and cinnamon instead of sugar or flavored creamers. Use fruit in place of sugar in cereals, yogurt, and recipes. Unsweetened applesauce is a good substitute for sugar in recipes and can be used in equal parts. Use less sugar in recipes for brownies, breads, cookies, and cakes. Reducing it by one third or one half of what the recipe calls for often cannot be noticed.

  1. Try calorie-free natural sweeteners containing stevia.

Stevia is a natural sugar free and calorie-free sweetener. For cancer patients and those wanting to prevent cancer, it is best to limit the ingestion of all chemicals including chemically based artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium.

Below is a chart displaying some common foods and their sugar content:



Grams of Sugar

Teaspoons of Sugar

Regular Cola

12 ounce can



Café Mocha

16 ounces



Chocolate Milk

8 ounces




8 ounces



Chocolate Chip Cookie

1 medium cookie



Chewy Granola Bar

1 bar



Vanilla Ice Cream

½ cup



Ice Cream Bar

1 square