For the first time ever the Federal Drug Administration is recommending a daily cap on the amount of sugar we ingest. What most of us fail to realize is that there is a lot of hidden sugar in our foods.

We have long been told to pay attention to the amount of salt we eat; again there is a lot of hidden salt in common foods. What is important now are these hidden sources.

The FDA is recommending no more that 12.5 teaspoons of sugar a day. Which is about what is in a can of Coke.

For most of us, giving up a can of pop will not be enough to meet recommendations.

Sweeteners like sugar, honey and high-fructose corn syrup are found in the obvious places like soda pop, cookies and candies but they are also in foods with health appeal like yogurt, granola and whole-grain bread. As well as ketchup, pasta sauce, canned fruit and prepared soups, salad dressings and marinades.

Most of us watch our calories in the course of a day. Dieticians are asking us to also watch our sugar and to be more specific about what we eat. Soda pop is just empty calories while fruit also contains fiber, calcium, protein and vitamins.

The sugar cap was derived from studying various kinds of diet patterns — American, Mediterranean and vegetarian — and determining how many discretionary calories are left over for sugar after a person gets the nutrients he or she needs. In the end this discretionary category is quite small.

One researcher compared these guidelines to living on a budget. Focus on essentials like food, clothing and shelter first.

In studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the amount of sugar we eat declines as we age with the focus centering on weight gain. New studies suggest that too much sugar may play a contributory role in chronic disease by causing inflammation, insulin resistance and hypertension. Think arthritis, diabetes and high-blood pressure. Sugar has also be implicated in aiding to over-all heart disease, which just makes sense.

What is the down side? Sugar is also able to make things like yogurt, whole-grains and high-fiber more palatable. A catch-22?

It seems that every time we focus on just one thing (low-fat, low-carb, etc) we get into these situations. Eating a moderate, healthy diet is the goal, taking measures to live a healthy life is the outcome.

Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.