How much sugar is in your food and drink?

Modern life is so fast-paced that it can be difficult to keep a healthy balance of nutrients in the food you eat. Sugar is one of these nutrients, and the cells in the body would die without it.

Consuming too much sugar, however, raises the risk of several dangerous health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, increased pressure on the heart and blood vessels, and dental decay.

To keep control of sugar levels, it can be helpful to know just how much sugar is in the most widely-available foods.

Fast facts on sugar content

  • Men should eat no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day and women no more than 6.

  • Chocolate bars, sweet cereals, and soda often contain high levels of added sugar.

  • Fruits contain natural sugars that are less harmful than the sugar found in processed food.

  • Regularly consuming too much sugar increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

What is sugar?

Sugar is a sweet addition to food that can cause serious health problems when consumed in excess over an extended period.

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that belongs to a class of chemically related sweet-tasting substances. It is available in many different forms.

The three main types of sugar are sucrose, lactose, and fructose.

Even though cells need glucose to survive, consuming too much can cause health problems.

The AHA says that added sugars contribute zero nutrients and are empty calories "that can lead to extra pounds, or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health."

The term "free sugars" refers to any glucose, fructose, and sucrose added to foods and drinks, as well as the sugars that occur naturally in syrups, honey, and fruit juice. The term does not apply to the natural sugars found in fresh fruit, vegetables, or milk because there is no evidence linking these sugars to health problems.

A single teaspoon of sugar is around 4 g. The AHA recommendation for daily added sugar intake, 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men, is equal to 24 g and 36 g of added sugar, respectively.

Soft drinks

Drinking fizzy, sugary beverages can end up contributing most of your daily sugar intake.

  • Coca-Cola (one can, 330 ml): 7.25 teaspoons of sugar

Red Bull (one can): 5.35 teaspoons of sugar

  • Sprite (one can): 7.61 teaspoons of sugar

  • Old Jamaica Ginger Beer (one can): 10.18 teaspoons of sugar

Breakfast cereals

The following values show the amount of sugar per 100 g serving in some of the most popular cereals.

Alpen: 4.05 teaspoons of sugar

  • Cheerios: 0.88 teaspoons of sugar

  • Corn Flakes: 1.93 teaspoons of sugar

  • Cocoa Krispies: 7.83 teaspoons of sugar

  • Froot Loops: 8.46 teaspoons of sugar

  • Raisin Bran: 6.35 teaspoons of sugar

  • Frosted Flakes: 7.12 teaspoons of sugar

  • Rice Krispies: 2 teaspoons of sugar

  • Special K: 2.57 teaspoons of sugar

  • Lucky Charms: 7.33 teaspoons of sugar

  • Honey Nut Cheerios: 6.67 teaspoons of sugar

  • Golden Grahams: 7.1 teaspoons of sugar

  • Cocoa Puffs: 7.55 teaspoons of sugar

  • Shredded Wheat: 0 teaspoons of sugar

Fruit

Fruits contain a type of sugar called fructose. Fresh fruit has no added sugar, but sugar levels range from 1 teaspoon per 100 grams in cranberries to over 3 teaspoons in grapes.

All figures below show naturally occurring sugar per 100 g serving. Keep in mind that consuming fruit is part of a healthy and well-balanced diet and that the sugar in fruit has demonstrated adverse affects on health.

  • Mangos: 2.77 teaspoons of sugar

  • Bananas: 2.48 teaspoons of sugar

  • Apples: 2.11 teaspoons of sugar

  • Pineapples: 2 teaspoons of sugar

  • Grapes: 3.14 teaspoons of sugar

  • Lemons: 0.5 teaspoons of sugar

  • Kiwi fruit: 1.82 teaspoons of sugar

  • Apricots: 1.87 teaspoons of sugar

  • Strawberries: 0.99 teaspoons of sugar

  • Raspberries: 0.9 teaspoons of sugar

  • Blueberries: 2.02 teaspoons of sugar

  • Cranberries: 0.87 teaspoons of sugar

  • Tomatoes: 0.53 teaspoons of sugar

Currently, food labels in the U.S. and Europe only contain information on total sugars per serving and provide no details about added sugar, making it almost possible for people to find out how much sugar was added to the food in processing.

The good news, however, is that it will soon be required that food labels show added sugar. This will make it easier to calculate the quantity of harmful sugar in the diet.

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