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.
It is estimated that the average person in the United States consumes around 19.5 teaspoons, or 82 grams (g) of sugar, per day. That is over double the amount recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA), which is 9 teaspoons per day for men and 6 teaspoons for women.
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 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.
Below are some common everyday foods and drinks, listed with their sugar content.
While there are less harmful chocolate options, such as dark or raw chocolate, there is a wide range of chocolate bars available on the market and the sugar content varies between brands and products.
Snickers bar (57 g): 5.83 teaspoons of sugar
Milky Way bar (58 g): 7.02 teaspoons of sugar
3 Musketeers bar (60 g): 8.14 teaspoons of sugar
Butterfinger bar (60 g): 5.58 teaspoons of sugar
Dove chocolate bar (37 g): 4.16 teaspoons of sugar
Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar (43 g): 4.87 teaspoons of sugar
Twix bar (57 g): 5.68 teaspoons of sugar
Milk chocolate M&M's packet (42 g): 5.68 teaspoons of sugar
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
In the U.S., breakfast cereals are among the most commonly consumed foods with high levels of added sugar.
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
Honey Smacks: 11.4 teaspoons of sugar
Rice Krispies: 2 teaspoons of sugar
Special K: 2.57 teaspoons of sugar
Wheaties: 3.08 teaspoons of sugar
Trix: 6.49 teaspoons of sugar
Lucky Charms: 7.33 teaspoons of sugar
Rice Chex: 1.62 teaspoons of sugar
Wheat Chex: 2.09 teaspoons of sugar
Corn Chex: 2.25 teaspoons of sugar
Honey Nut Cheerios: 6.67 teaspoons of sugar
Reese's Puffs: 6.3 teaspoons of sugar
Golden Grahams: 7.1 teaspoons of sugar
Cocoa Puffs: 7.55 teaspoons of sugar
Cookie Crisp: 7.06 teaspoons of sugar
Shredded Wheat: 0 teaspoons of sugar
Cocoa Pebbles: 7.26 teaspoons of sugar
Banana Nut Crunch: 3.55 teaspoons of sugar.
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.
Mangoes: 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
The AHA has urged people to cut their intake of added sugar because of evidence that it can lead to the following health conditions:
Obesity: A recent study in QJM found that eating more sugar and consuming artificially sweetened soda is associated with obesity.
Heart disease: Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine investigated sugar intake and deaths related to cardiovascular disease. They concluded that: "Most U.S. adults consume more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet. We observed a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease mortality."
Type 2 diabetes: Although sugar does not directly cause diabetes, individuals who consume more sugar than average are more likely to be overweight, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
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