(Craig Cutler)

Old guideline: Limit intake of added sugars, which are sweeteners added during processing or preparation or consumed separately.

2015 guideline: Less than 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugars. (These do not include naturally occurring sugars such as those consumed as part of milk and fruits.)

Sugar has become the principal poison in our diets -- blamed by many nutritionists and public health officials for myriad health ills, including the obesity epidemic and chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. But scientists remain split on whether sugar is the cause of these ailments or whether it's part of a larger problem of Americans taking in too many calories.

A panel of experts convened to make recommendations for the new dietary guidelines seemed to lean toward the former with its proposal to tax foods with super-high levels of sugar. It wrote that such taxes "may encourage consumers to reduce consumption," adding that revenue could support healthy-eating promotion efforts or could subsidize the cost of vegetables and fruits.

Here's a closer look at where we're currently getting our added sugars:


Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020.

The major sources of added sugars are beverages, which include soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and flavored waters; and snacks and sweets, which include grain-based desserts such as cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, sweet rolls, and pastries. Experts say you don't need to cut those out of your diet completely; just try to shift away from having so many servings of them.

Still, this recommendation may be among the most challenging for Americans to follow as it's tricky to calculate how much 10 percent is of a daily diet and to determine what kind of sugars are okay and which are not.

Here are our current eating habits of added sugars as compared to the recommended limit, as published in the new guidelines.


Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020.

The federal government's influential Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were released Thursday, are updated every five years, and the debate over saturated fats, red meat, caffeine and salt was especially intense this time around.

The guidelines are the basis of everything from school lunch programs to the diets promoted in bestselling books, but in recent years some scientists have begun to question the one-size-fits-all approach. A growing body of research supports the theory that a person's genetic makeup or microbiome (the organisms that live on or inside of you and help to make you who you are) plays a key role in how food affects the body -- and that the impact can be different from one individual to another. That work supports a more personalized approach to diet, which some researchers argue have argued is the future of nutrition science.

Read more:

This diet study upends everything we thought we knew about ‘healthy’ food

Cutting sugar from kids’ diets appears to have a beneficial effect in just 10 days

Honey isn't as healthy as we think

Scientists (sort of) settle debate on low-carb vs. low-fat diets

Doritos, deconstructed (mesmerizing photos of the 34 processed ingredients in your favorite snack)

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