For many years, a heart-healthy diet has been associated with limiting sodium and fat, but the latest guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) now include limiting ADDED sugar as well. This does not include naturally occurring sugar found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). There is no conclusive evidence that a diet high in sugar affects blood cholesterol and triglycerides or blood pressure, however, many foods high in added sugar are often “empty calories”. These high calorie foods often don’t provide the vitamins and minerals our body needs to stay healthy. Foods high in sugar may play a role in weight gain. It is well known that being overweight or obese does contribute to heart disease and diabetes. So, what does the AHA recommend?  For most American women, added sugar should be limited to no more than 100 calories a day – that’s 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, no more than 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. These recommendations do not focus on any specific type of added sugar (like high fructose corn syrup or pure cane sugar) but rather on all added sugars. Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sweet tea) are the most common source of added sugar in the American diet. A 12-oz. soda has about 9-10 tsp. of sugar. Obvious sources of sugar include cake, cookies, candy, and other sweet treats. However, sugar can also be found in condiments such as ketchup and foods such as peanut butter. Looking at labels can help identify added sugars. Healthy snack alternatives include fresh or dried fruit, popcorn, or unsweetened or artificially sweetened yogurt and nuts. Healthy beverage alternatives include sparkling water or water infused with fruit, herbs or cucumbers, unsweetened tea or coffee. Use spices such as cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg. For more information and recipes, check out the American Heart Association website: