How Much Sugar Are You Really Eating?
By Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
An important part of any healthy meal plan is to control the amount of sugar in your food. This is even more important if you have diabetes! True, it is hard to do since so many foods may contain hidden forms of sugar. However, if you eat mostly fresh, whole foods and use food labels to track the sugar in your food, you can control the amount of sugar you eat instead of letting it control you and your health!
What is sugar?
Sugar is a substance found in many foods in both natural and processed forms. Different forms of sugar include:
- Glucose (natural sugar found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains)
- Lactose (sugar found in milk)
- Fructose (sugar found in fruit)
- Sucrose (table sugar)
Glucose is the building block of many sugars, and it is also the main energy source for your body. Although sugar is needed by the cells in your body in order to survive, eating too much sugar can cause tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes and other health problems.
Do not confuse natural sugar in fruits and veggies with the processed sugar found in candies, cakes, and other packaged food products and juices. Although labels and nutrition facts may make it seem that some fruits have the same amount of sugar as some candies, fruits contain healthy and natural vitamins, minerals, and fiber that many processed foods do not contain.
How much sugar should I eat each day?
The American Heart Association suggests that most adults should not have more than 100 to 150 calories worth of added sugar each day for proper health. This is equal to about 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
Use this list of common foods and their sugar content* to help you make healthy choices for your daily meals and snacks.
(*per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) unless otherwise noted)
- Tomatoes- 0.7 teaspoons of sugar
- Oat cereal such as Cheerios- 1.1 teaspoons of sugar
- Strawberries- 1.3 teaspoons of sugar
- Blueberries- 1.7 teaspoons of sugar
- Corn flakes – 2.4 teaspoons of sugar
- Crispy rice cerealsuch as Rice Krispies- 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
- Apples- 2.6 teaspoons of sugar
- Bananas- 3 teaspoons of sugar
- Ice cream(1/2 cup) – 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar
- Hot chocolate(one mug) – 4.5 teaspoons of sugar
- Muffin(one chocolate chip muffin) – 4.75 teaspoons of sugar
- Regular cola(12 oz can) – 7 teaspoons of sugar
- Marshmallows – 14.5 teaspoons of sugar
- Caramel candies – 17 teaspoons of sugar
- Limit your sugar intake each day to lower your risk of health problems.
- Do not confuse natural sugar with processed
- Be sure to choose fresh, whole foods full of fiber and natural sugar so you can keep your weight and overall health under control!
Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD