Some sugars naturally occur in foods – think about the fructose in fruit or the lactose in milk. These foods contain a wide variety of healthy nutrients, and the small amount of natural sugars is not a concern. Added sugars include sugar you add yourself: sugar or flavored/sweetened creamer to coffee, honey in your tea, or sugar you add in cooking. Added sugars in boxed, canned, frozen, and commercially-prepared foods include sucrose, dextrose, table sugar, syrups, honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.
Added sugars are found in a variety of commercial foods. Research shows that these groups contain the most added sugar for the U.S. population:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages provide 24% of overall added sugars (16% of these are soft drinks, 5% fruit drinks, 2% sports and energy drinks)
- Desserts and sweet snacks provide 19% of overall added sugars (within this group, 6% cookies and brownies, 5% ice cream and frozen desserts, 4% cakes and pies 3% donuts, sweet rolls and pastries)
- Sweetened coffee and tea (either what you purchase from your favorite coffee shop or what you brew at home) provide 11% of overall added sugars
- Candy and sugars provide 9%
- Breakfast cereals and bars 7%
- Sandwiches 7%
- Milk and yogurt 4%
If you don’t drink sweetened beverages, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with added sugars. Perhaps you enjoy sweet snacks during the day, regularly include dessert with meals, or enjoy sweetened cereal for breakfast.
How Do I Know How Much Added Sugar is in Food?
Food labels now include a separate line for the amount of added sugars in foods. 4 grams of sugar on the food label equals 1 teaspoon of sugar that you might measure into foods at home. For example, a 6-ounce serving of Yoplait Original Blueberry Smoothie yogurt contains 17 grams of added sugar – that’s about 4 teaspoons’ worth.
So, why should you care about added sugars? The post How Can I Reduce Added Sugars for Good Health? has the answers.
By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CPT, CHWC
- Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get the Facts: Added Sugars. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/added-sugars.html last reviewed 5-6-21; accessed 6-26-21
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Cut Down on Added Sugars. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/DGA_Cut-Down-On-Added-Sugars.pdf published March 2016. Accessed 6-26-21.
- Yoplait. Original Single Serve Blueberry Smoothies. https://www.yoplait.com/products/original-single-serve-blueberry-smoothie/ accessed 6-27-21
- Dunkin. Frozen Drinks. https://www.dunkindonuts.com/en/menu/frozen-drinks accessed 6-29-21
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.