As addictive as cocaine, sugar is waging war on the health and diet of Americans. From cereals and sauces to drinks and even protein bars, sugar has made its way into our breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Eating a little sugar isn’t particularly harmful. But exactly how much sugar is too much?
Whether you’re simply looking to cut back on sugar, going on a no-sugar diet, or looking into a full blown sugar detox, it’s important to arm yourself with sugar awareness. Understanding where and how to look for sugar is the key to improved health, weight loss, and feeling better overall.
How Much Sugar Does the Average Person Consume?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), less than 5% (and definitely no more than 10%) of your daily calories should come from added sugars.
What does this mean and how can it be applied?
- 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar = 4 grams of sugar
- 1 gram of sugar = 4 calories
- A healthy male diet should include no more than 38 grams of added sugar a day (9 tsp.)
- A healthy female diet should include no more than 25 grams of sugar a day (6 tsp.)
These are the ideal amounts, but in reality, Americans are consuming on average 85-120 grams (20-50 tsp.) a day. To put that into perspective, this amount is equivalent to a glass of orange juice, a vanilla yogurt, a banana, and a cup of granola. Wait, you might say, these foods sound so healthy!
A majority of sugar consumption occurs unnoticed. While a slice of cake or a can of Coke is well-known to be filled with this toxic ingredient, other foods aren’t so obvious. In fact, some sugary foods are even marketed as healthy. How can you spot the difference?
Spotting High-Sugar Foods
Sugar can go by unnoticed unless you look for it. Because of its addictive quality, manufacturers add sugar to just about everything they can. Here are a few easy practices that help the average consumer avoid too many unwanted grams of sugar to their daily intake.
Read Nutrition Labels
Nutrition labels may seem intimidating at first, but they’re actually quite easy to understand with a little practice.Start with the serving size. This will be the physical amount of food being measured for sugar. Then look at the grams of sugar listed and multiply that by how many servings are being consumed.
Look Out for “Diet” Food
One of the greatest misconceptions regarding the marketing of food is that diet food = healthy food. Without being a scientist or a nutritionist, it is easy to spot the fallacy in this notion. All it takes it one a glance at the nutrition label to see that while calories in the most popular diet foods are reduced, the sugar is often increased.
Sugar is added to “diet” foods like protein bars, low-fat yogurt, and light dressings to boost flavor and addictive qualities while maintaining a low calorie count. This causes many innocent people to believe they’re making wise choices when in fact they’re loading up on sugar.
Other Names for Sugar to be Aware of
To make it even trickier, sugar goes by a variety of names. These names refer to the source from which the sugar was extracted. Here are the most common alternative names for sugar:
- Sucrose (sugar coming from sugar beets, sugar cane, and fruit)
- Fructose (sugar coming from honey and fruit)
- Maltose (sugar coming from barley)
- Glucose (sugar coming from vegetables, honey, and fruit)
- Lactose (sugar coming from milk)
- Brown sugar
- Malt sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
Sugar seeking tip: when scanning ingredients look for anything ending in an ‘ose’.
These ingredients are just as important to look for as sugar. Though the source may be different, the impact on your overall health is the same.
Hidden sugar is a scary notion. But even when labeled “natural sugars” or “natural sweeteners,” sugar is sugar. Because of the value sugar holds for food manufacturers, it has a way of hiding in plain sight.
Beware the “No Added Sugar” Loophole
Once the FDA and USDA picked up on the average consumer’s awareness of the danger of sugar, manufacturers started adding the label ‘no added sugar.’ This guise often leads the buyer to ignore the ingredient list.
Products with “no added sugar” on the label can still have lots of naturally occurring sugar—say, from fruit juice or milk. And it can contain artificial sweeteners, which can trigger the body to store more fat while still making you crave more sweets. . It’s up to consumers to check all ingredients before deciding if they’re consuming too much sugar or not.
This masquerade shows why it’s crucial to become comfortable with ingredient lists when looking to reduce sugar intake. Just the fact that such measures are being taken to hide its presence is enough to make you realize how insidious sugar can be.
Natural Sugar Replacements
Your body may digest glucose, fructose, and sucrose slightly differently. But not enough that one kind of sugar is “better” to eat than another.
Exactly How Much Sugar is in Everyday Foods
When considering what’s in the fridge, freezer, pantry, and “goodie drawer,” there are a few things that stand out in terms of sugar content. Ice Cream, cookies, soda, and cake are all obvious front runners. Here are a few other everyday foods that are a little sneakier with their sugar.
Dessert for Breakfast?
Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. But Americans are often consuming sugar-packed foods that are more likely to eventually drain energy instead of building it. Aren’t there alternatives?
Here’s how other countries eat breakfast compared to Americans.
In Ethiopia, people start the day with a bowl of boiled fava beans topped with scrambled eggs, tomato, and green onion. A popular breakfast dish in China is baozi, a steamed bun filled with savory fillings like spinach, pork, and eggplant. In Sweden, toast with salmon is popular morning fuel.
Over 40% of Americans opt for a sweet breakfast that contains as much sugar as dessert. Here is how much sugar is in some of the most popular breakfast items that are eaten every day in the U.S.
|Muffin||38 grams of sugar|
|Pop-Tart||34 grams of sugar|
|Fruit smoothie||17 grams of sugar|
|Yogurt parfait||49 grams of sugar|
|Milk and cereal||25 grams of sugar|
|Frappuccino||50-80 grams of sugar|
|Glazed donut||24 grams of sugar|
Compare these common breakfast items with the sugar content in a typical dessert.
|Slice of red velvet cake||30 grams of sugar|
|Fudge sundae||27 grams of sugar|
|Slice of pecan pie||31 grams of sugar|
There are still 60% of American who aren’t having dessert for breakfast. However, health issues due to high sugar intake are still on the rise. Here is further insight on food and drinks that have copious amounts of sugar that don’t seem so obvious.
How Much Sugar is in a Banana and Other Fruit?
All sugar, regardless of its source, is terrible for your health in high amounts (anything above WHO recommendations). For the millions who struggle with stubborn belly fat, even the smallest insulin reaction to sugar can cause weight gain and retention.
Fructose (the sugar in fruit) can cause insulin resistance. Insulin is the key hormone involved in weight management. A few things impact insulin levels in the body, including the pancreas and thyroid. It’s sugar, however, that’s to blame for the high amount of insulin being used by the body. The more sugar is consumed, whether from fruit or other sources,, the more insulin is needed. insulin isn’t a never-ending resource that’s made by the body. It can eventually get depleted, resulting in type 2 diabetes.
Here is the sugar count of the most popular fruits eaten in America:
|Bananas||12 grams of sugar|
|Apples||10 grams of sugar|
|Watermelon||10 grams of sugar in a cup|
|Grapes||16 grams of sugar in a cup|
Even with fruit, sugar count can add up quickly and result in the inability to lose weight and overcome sugar addiction.
How Much Sugar is in Milk?
Whether poured over their morning cereal or splashed in three to five cups of coffee a day, Americans consume on average 18 gallons of milk per year.
A single cup of milk contains 13 grams of sugar. As you can assume, this can add up quickly. But don’t forget that this is not added sugar, it’s the sugar that’s naturally occurring in milk in the form of lactose.
How Much Sugar is in Beer and Wine?
Most beers have a lot of carbohydrates, but very little residual sugar. Craft beers that are higher in hops can sometimes be sweeter to balance the bitterness.
Wine contains a little more sugar than beer, but it varies quite a bit depending on the type of wine. A 5-ounce glass of red wine has on average 0.9 grams of sugar, while the equivalent amount of white wine has about 1.4 grams of sugar. Sweet dessert wines can be much higher—as much as 7 grams in a 2- or 3-ounce serving.
Mixed drinks are far more dangerous when it comes to sugar. Tonic, soda, and other mixers can have 4 grams of sugar an ounce, while sweet drinks like daiquiris and pina coladas can contain 30 grams of sugar a serving. If you like the taste of mixed drinks, consider tequila, soda, and lime as a low-sugar margarita.
How Much Sugar is in a Can of Coke?
At first glance, you might look at the label of a bottle of Coke and think the sugar content isn’t that bad. And then you notice that there are 2.5 servings in that bottle. Which means there are actually 39 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can of Coke.
A single can of soda exceeds the 25 grams of sugar daily limit for women. So, exactly how much sugar is in soda? More than an entire day’s worth!
Sodas aren’t the only culprit. Fruit juices and energy drinks are also filled with sugar.
Not too far from the nutrition label is a list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed by quantity by volume percentage from greatest to least. Water is the first ingredient in Coke, sugar is the second. So, if numbers are confusing, just take a look at what is actually in the food. This is the best way to get an idea of the amount of sugar in foods with labels.
How Much Sugar is in Sports Drinks?
Athletes of all levels find themselves reaching for a sports drink after a rigorous training session.This trend has become commercial with gym-goers drinking sugar-filled sports drinks after working tirelessly to shed pounds on the elliptical.
|Gatorade||56 grams of sugar in a 32-ounce bottle|
|Powerade||76 grams of sugar in a 32-ounce bottle|
|Propel||Contains sucralose (Splenda) instead of sugar|
While re storing a small amount of glucose and electrolytes post-workout may be beneficial, the modern-day sports drink is counterproductive for those seeking overall health benefits. You rarely need to drink more than plain water after exercise.
How Much Sugar is in Everyday Condiments?
Dip it, spread it, squeeze it, scoop it, condiments can be found in every household across that nation.
Here are the sugar stats for the most popular condiments in America:
|Mayonnaise||1-2 grams of sugar in 1 Tbsp.|
|Ketchup||4 grams of sugar in 1 Tbsp.|
|Relish||2.4 grams of sugar in 1 Tbsp.|
|BBQ Sauce||4-15 grams of sugar in 2 Tbsp.|
|Jelly / Jam||10-12 grams of sugar in 1 Tbsp.|
Note: 3-6 tablespoons of condiments are often consumed in one sitting.
There are various alternatives that can enhance food without the added sugar including hot sauce or a squeeze of fresh citrus.
Create New Favorites and Let Go of the Sugar
To avoid consuming too much sugar, make sure you read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. But the best solution is to avoid processed foods and premade sauces and cook fresh meals with whole foods like veggies, meat, herbs, and other wholesome ingredients.
It can be disappointing to discover that many favorite foods have hidden sugars in them.
Often these items have become favorites because of the addictive nature of sugar. But nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.