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Calorie Count Blog

Counting Added Sugar


By Mary_RD on Sep 15, 2009 12:00 PM in Tips & Updates
Edited By +Rachel Berman

YOU have been challenged by the American Heart Association to limit your intake of added sugar.  

Last month, they issued a recommendation daring women to limit added sugar to 6 teaspoons a day.  Men can have 9 because they are usually bigger.  For women, that’s 100 calories of added sugar and for men, it’s 150 calories a day. 

Presently, Americans average 22.2 teaspoons - that’s 355 calories - of added sugar per day. Adolescent boys are most guilty, averaging 34 teaspoons a day (information provided by the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, also called NHANES)!

The American Heart Association warns that sugary foods are making us fat because they are easy to overeat.  Excess added sugar may be associated with inflammation and metabolic abnormalities that lead to heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. Furthermore, the calories in added sugar are "empty" when it comes to delivering vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
 
But how can you tell how much added sugar is in food when the Nutrition Facts label doesn’t differentiate between added and natural sugar (natural sugar is simply part of milk, fruit, and vegetables)?

Perhaps we can deduce the amount of added sugar in food in a few steps. Ask:

Is this an unprocessed food to which you did not add sugar? 
If the answer is “yes“, then "added sugar" is not an issue.

Does a word for “added sugar” appear on the ingredient list?
If you find the words, sugar, invert sugar,  corn sweetener, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, honey, molasses, sucrose, and other words that end in “ose”, you have hit "added sugar".

Does the food contain natural sugar from milk, fruit or vegetables?   
If yes, then note to self: Subtract the natural sugar from the added sugar. Quick short hand:

  • Milk, 8-ounces, has 12g of natural sugar 
  • Fruit or 100% juice, has 25-30g of natural sugar
  • Vegetables, ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw, have 5g of natural sugar 
  • For every other food, consider the sugar to be “added”

Start Counting

On the Nutrition Facts panel note the grams of “sugar” under “total carbohydrates.”  Total carbohydrate has three subgroups: sugar, fiber, and starch.

If “natural sugar” is not present, then no subtraction is needed.  But, either way, realize that each level teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams of carbohydrate (that's 16 calories).  For instance, if a food has 12 grams of sugar, it provides 3 teaspoons of added sugar.

Check Your Knowledge


Let’s count the teaspoons of added sugar in some common foods:

Cheerios

  • Not a source of natural sugar
  • INGREDIENTS: Whole Grain Oats, Modified Cornstarch, Cornstarch, Sugar, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Oat Fiber, Tripotassium Phosphate, etc.;
  • 28g serving provides Total Carbohydrates: 14.0g;  Fiber: 2g,  Sugars: 1.0g
  • Added sugar:  ¼ teaspoon

Honey Nut Cheerios

  • Not a source of natural sugar
  • INGREDIENTS: Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Oat Bran, Modified Cornstarch, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, Salt, Ground Almonds, Calcium Carbonate, Tripotassium Phosphate, etc.
  • 28g serving provides Total Carbohydrates: 22.0g; Fiber: 2g, Sugars: 9.0g
  • Added sugar:  2¼ teaspoons

Plain Nonfat Yogurt

  • Is a source of natural sugar
  • INGREDIENTS: Cultured Grade A Nonfat Milk, Pectin
  • 6oz serving provides Total Carbohydrates: 12.0g; Sugars: 12.0g
  • Added sugar: 0 teaspoons

Lowfat Yogurt, Apple Cinnamon

  • Is a source of natural sugar
  • INGREDIENTS: Cultured Grade A Lowfat Milk, Apples, Sugar, Fructose Syrup, Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Contains Less than 1% of Modified Cornstarch, Pectin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Natural Flavor, Malic Acid, Kosher Gelatin, Disodium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate.
  • 6oz serving provides Total Carbohydrates: 28.0g; Sugars: 25.0g
  • Subtract 12 grams of natural sugar, leaves 13 grams of added sugar
  • Added sugar:  3¼  teaspoons

Soda

  • Not a source of natural sugar
  • INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor and Artificial Flavor, etc.
  • 8-oz serving provides Total Carbohydrates: 27.0g; Sugars: 27.0g
  • Added sugar: 6¾ teaspoons (Watch out!  A 12-ounce can has 10 teaspoons)

You get the point:  Added sugar adds up quickly.
Note To Self:  There’s really no room for sugary foods.  I guess that’s why they are for special occasions, not for every day.

See the USDA Database for the Added Sugars Content of Selected Foods (stated in 100 g servings, which is about 3.5 ounces).


Your thoughts....

Is it possible to limit added sugar to a measly 6 teaspoons a day?



Comments


Anyone know how much ADDED sugar is in sugar free Carnation coffee creamer powder? 



I think this will be difficult to do, but worthwhile, especially for me. My doctor told me not to have sugar anyway since it's a stimulant; I have chronic anxiety. It's one of those small things that would help to take away. I'm going to give it a try.



It's very easy for me, since I have a salty tooth not a sweet tooth, it's hard limiting SALT for me instead. :P



I have totally eliminated added sugar for up to about six months at a time and the health benefits I have seen are astounding. (and i never use that word!) The increased energy and mental clarity, not to mention the reduction in appetite, especially when I have eliminated caffeine as well, are so worth the effort. Not that everyone needs to do this but, for anyone experiencing fatigue or difficulty losing weight it is sure worth a try.



Great article! I am not sure if I can limit to 6 teaspoons just yet, but I am excited to have the tools to calculate and eliminate them appropriately.



Would added sugar inlcude such luxaries as Stevia or Splenda?



I think this is good to know about but remember not to replace sugar with chemical substitutes such as aspartane.  It's definitely hard to do but yes, probably worth the effort in the long run.  Why is it so hard to lose weight but so easy to gain it???



In the example of lowfat, applie cinnamon yogurt it states that it is a natural source of sugar but with added sugar. 12 grams of natural sugar are present. Subtract that from the total grams. If there is natural sugar present how do you know how much to subtract?



Too much thinking involved for me to get really technical about it, but this is good information.  Soda is already on my "once-in-awhile only" list, and even then I can't drink a whole can anymore, but now I know what to watch for.  I'm just not going to freak out if I go over 6 teaspoons.  Any reduction is a good reduction!  If I get bogged down in the numbers, I'll not stick with it for long.



You can effectively limit added &  sugar intake in general if you eat whole foods.  If you eat from anything in a package, just make sure that the added sugar is the 5th ingredient or beyond on the ingredients label.  Another way to watch sugar... don't eat ANYTHING with high fructose corn syrup & corn syrup.  if we make a stand and stop eating everything that has it in it... they'll stop putting it in our food.



btw, it's really hard to find packaged foods that don't have sugar in it... it's scary.



Well, im pretty sure this is going to be hard to do. But im going to try my hardest to do so..



This is an awesome step in the right direction. Hopefully manufacturers will have to start labeling added and natural sugar right on the label soon!



In May I decided to limit both salt and sugar in my diet. I also eat more veggies and fruits. I'm probably getting close to the same amount of calories and really do not exercise like I should but will get started doing that someday (oops). But to my surprise and do to lowering sugar and salt, I have happily lost 43 lbs. and my arthritis doesn't cause me too much pain any longer.

i always thought salt was the culprit for my painful arthritis, it turns out it bothers me more when I eat SUGAR!! I've been testing this on myself for months. No more sugar for me!!



Good for you! keep it up. Almost anything white causes inflammation I have found out. white sugar/flour/salt. I like your cat!



no added sugar does not include artificial or alternate sweeteners like Splenda, Stevia, Equal or that other stuff in the pink package.



I quit eating refined sugar at the end of May.  I asked a friend to  do it with me because I would never be able to make it without the 'buddy system'.  I also quit drinking caffeine.  I feel SO much better.  Some people retain water with added sodium but it's sugar that does it for me.  The added benefit is 21 lbs. dropped since I quit the sugar.



Finally - so a teaspoon of sugar = 16 calories.  But everything on the labels measures in grams.  So a teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams?  Which = 16 calories???



This article has come at a right time for me. Today, its been exactly one month since i have totally stopped intake of refined sugar.

What that means is : I have stopped aerated drinks, fruit juices with added sugar to it, pastry & almost every bakery product , ready-made tea (this was the hardest part for me), chocolates etc.

So what do i do when i craving for sweet: I suddenly discovered the the beauty of fruits. My mother has also gifted me home made sun-dried fruits which actually taste better than most sweetmeats. I do also eat sweets made from jaggery ( natural sugar cane sugar & honey). I have shifted to  Green tea, which i used to have with honey, now i have gotten used to drinking it without honey! Sugar free sweeteners are not for me as they are processed foods & loaded with toxins.

Thanks for clarifying about yoghurt, i am a curd lover & would love to dig into it anyday.Now, i can do so without guilt.

The city that i reside it facing severe swine flu threat, avoiding sugar was my first step to boost my natural immunity.

Click here to read the article on Boosting natural immunity.

 



Original Post by: gypsylady7

Finally - so a teaspoon of sugar = 16 calories.  But everything on the labels measures in grams.  So a teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams?  Which = 16 calories???


Hi,

One teaspoon of sugar provides 4 grams of carbohydrate (in the form of the simple sugar, sucrose) and 16 calories.  Each one gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories of energy when burned.

Mary

 



Thank you very much. My cat is Sarah and she just passed away - she was 19 years old and I got her when she was 6 weeks old.



Thank you. My cat is Sarah and she just passed away. She was 19 years old and I got her when she was just 6 weeks old. I miss her dearly. But I have 9 more at home to keep me company and not make me feel so depressed without Sarah.



Hang on, is this feasible?

2 thick slices of wholemeal bread, according to this, will almost blow your entire day's added sugar. (that's about 100g, which seems to have 5g added sugar)

 

I'm OK with not having sugary fizzy drinks, but I refuse to get paranoid about two slices of wholemeal bread. No.

 

Unless bread in the USA is somehow a whole lot sweeter? Is it like cake??

 

 



... I looked it up.

In the UK, wholemeal bread has about 3.5-3.7g/100g added sugar. as opposed to the 5g given in that USDA database. So it is a bit sweeter.

 

If this is the case, I'm starting to think that the USDA recommendation is unworkable for those who don't have that much time on their hands.



This is a great article I try to limit my sugar intake I've decided not to use sugar in my coffee though I still use creamer. Since being on this forum I'm drinking more water than I have before. I look at labels more and wow this article is great



I 'gave up' sugar in February for Lent and felt so good that I've continued to stay away from it. I must say that I feel so much better for doing so. I have 2-3 servings per day of fruit and have found alternatives like sugar-free pudding and sugar-free fudgsicles. It's been over six months without sugar and it's awesome. The beginning was tough, but now that the cravings are gone it's easy. At first I compensated the lack of sugar with more salty snacks, then over time I was able to get control of that. To be honest, I'm afraid to go back to sugar foods because I'm doing so well without it.



Original Post by: sdrolet

I 'gave up' sugar in February for Lent and felt so good that I've continued to stay away from it. I must say that I feel so much better for doing so. I have 2-3 servings per day of fruit and have found alternatives like sugar-free pudding and sugar-free fudgsicles. It's been over six months without sugar and it's awesome. The beginning was tough, but now that the cravings are gone it's easy. At first I compensated the lack of sugar with more salty snacks, then over time I was able to get control of that. To be honest, I'm afraid to go back to sugar foods because I'm doing so well without it.


Hi sdrolet,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I am at present experiencing the same problem that you faced earlier-Compensating with salty snacks. Hopefully will get over it soon.Laughing



This article is coming at a good time for me because 2 weeks ago I realized that all my overeating had to do with sugary foods and sugar cravings which were becoming out of control. I figure my grandpa lost 30 pounds after simply cutting out sugar for his diabetes. I feel so much better already. The sugar cravings are already subsiding, fruit seems sweeter to me. Right now I've just cut out obvious sugars like sweets, sugar in my oatmeal etc but I'd like to work my way up to eliminating more items like fruit yogurts, breads, and cereals with added sugar. I'd love to eliminate caffeine too but I'm not there yet. It was so great to hear of so many other people on the same journey. Anyone interested in starting a sugar-free group?



Count me in! I'd be interested in a sugar-free group Laughing



My biggest problem with avoiding sugar is avoiding natural sugars -- fruit, oranges, bananas, orange juice, milk and dairy, whole grain breads (even homemade, food for the yeast), contain sugar, but they have so many other significant health benefits.  Processed sugar I can mostly avoid.  But avoiding the other foods feels like cutting of my nose to spite my face, so to speak.  Any good advise on how to handle that?



Raw honey and a splash of unsweetened soy milk (just switched from regular soy milk) in my tea is my 'sugar sin' of choice.  I really tried to go without that one but just couldn't.  Fruit is what I crave, especially a really wonderful ripe Rocky Ford cantaloupe, a juicy Palisade peach or a fresh crisp Jonathan apple (a rare treat, anymore).  I always thought they were 'sugar sins', this article says I've been feeling guilty for all the wrong reasons.  

I have never really found any artificial sweeteners that work for me and usually leave me craving and heading for a binge.  This might be my imagination, but when I tried to substitute with 'artificial' sweeteners of ANY kind, I'm more hungry then ever. I don't know why this happens but have a half baked theory: I thought maybe when the 'sweet sensor tastebuds' are given something sweet they tell the body to react accordingly, i.e. ramp up the processes to use up the sugar in the blood, but there isn't any so it just starts a tail spin???  

Any thoughts?  I'm curious if anyone else gets more cravings when they use artificial sweeteners.....



Original Post by: funme

My biggest problem with avoiding sugar is avoiding natural sugars -- fruit, oranges, bananas, orange juice, milk and dairy, whole grain breads (even homemade, food for the yeast), contain sugar, but they have so many other significant health benefits.  Processed sugar I can mostly avoid.  But avoiding the other foods feels like cutting of my nose to spite my face, so to speak.  Any good advise on how to handle that?


Hey funme,

From what I got out of the article, you don't need to avoid natural sugars.  It is the "added" or refined sugars that should be avoided.  So no worries about avoiding fruits.



Thanks.  I think I read the original article wrong.



I think this is too much micro management, it's hard enough to keep track of calories, let a lone sugar.  Just don't eat sugary stuff, win!



I Just started a sugar free group: Living a Sugar Free Sweet Life. For people who have or want to eliminate sugar from their diet join the group for a place to share stories, encouragement, and tips.

Group URL:

http://caloriecount.about.com/living-sugar-free-sweet-g1878

 



Reading comprehension failure after a long day...

I read 6g instead of 6 teaspoons.

6 teaspoons is much more doable.

 



In reading this comment:

In the example of lowfat, applie cinnamon yogurt it states that it is a natural source of sugar but with added sugar. 12 grams of natural sugar are present. Subtract that from the total grams. If there is natural sugar present how do you know how much to subtract?

I had the same question.  Best I can tell the subtraction is that lowfat yogurt can be nutritionally substituted with milk, so you use the 12 g of natural sugar from milk.



Ok, So I decided to cut out artificial sweeteners (the pink stuff) because it is so very bad for you chemically, and opted instead for real sugar, now  know sugar is not great for you but which is worse refined sugar or chemical?



Well, I'm depressed now. :P



I have been trying to live sugar-free (and flour-free, yikes!!) for a few weeks now... and it's SO hard if you're not cooking your own food.  I work on the road a lot, so today I stopped by subway for a roast chicken salad (no dressing), and thought about getting a bag of Baked Lays chips. 

NOPE!

The fourth ingredient was SUGAR!  They added SUGAR to "healthy" baked potato chips!  Even most pre-prepared soups have sugar added....  how unhealthy is that?

It takes a lot of time (and yes, I even work full time), but cooking yourself is the best way to avoid excess sugar....



Original Post by: bestfriend

I have totally eliminated added sugar for up to about six months at a time and the health benefits I have seen are astounding. (and i never use that word!) The increased energy and mental clarity, not to mention the reduction in appetite, especially when I have eliminated caffeine as well, are so worth the effort. Not that everyone needs to do this but, for anyone experiencing fatigue or difficulty losing weight it is sure worth a try.


salt can be just as deadly if not worse, high blood pressure



The best diet advice I ever got was; eat foods without ingredients – or, the fewer the better.  For instance, peanut butter should contain peanuts – nothing more.  Look at the labels.  Some have a long list of ingredients and sugar is usually one.  I spend most of my grocery $ in the fresh produce section.  It’s a darn shame that the cheapest food options are full of sugar, salt and fat.  Shopping for fresh produce is a diet in-and-of-itself because it’s so expensive.  If I were queen of the world, that would be different. 



THANK YOU for this article!  It came at the perfect time as I have been trying to cut down on added sugar.  I had read other articles on added sugar and the need to reduce siginificantly in our diet but had no idea as to the conversion.  The 1 tsp = 4 grams = 16 calories is great to know.  Also getting a better feel for natural sugar in non-fat yogurt is very helpful.  I had stopped eating yogurt because the 9 - 11 grams of sugar in the non-fat options I was eating was more than I wanted to have.

I love the Calorie Count website!  I have a much better understanding of what I am eating and it has helped me reduce my sugar, up my fiber and more than that to lose 14 lbs during my 1st month!



I have been working on cutting down my sugar intake for months now. Most of my sugar intake come mostly fruits, veggies, and dairy.

Calorie Count does not differentiate between added sugar and natural sugar. Furthermore, for fruits it lists "high in sugar" as a negative. How do we find out without doing a lot of calcuations and looking at each specific food item how much added sugar we are consuming?



Will anybody inform about natural organic sugar?

I mean about suar from cane juice, palm and coconut.

 



Reducing - or completely cutting out - added sugar is a great idea. I've been eating sugar-free for almost 6 months and I have heaps more energy and have lost weight - it makes you feel great!



Looking for clarification, please.

The article asks if the food contains natural sugar and then recommends to subtract the natural sugar from the added sugar, thus treating it like added sugar.

My reading of article is that it is talking about added sugar, not natural sugar but I didn't have the patience to wade through the Heart Association article.



A quick check on my daily calorie counter says I have had 29 g sugar, but when I checked each item, only 8 g came from refined sugar, the other was in the fruit.  Perhaps a little help from the calorie counter to split out natural and added sugars from the days total would be a help?

 



i dont know bout this would it be do-able, there isn't any added sugar in fruit and veg is there?



Original Post by: mouseybrown

i dont know bout this would it be do-able, there isn't any added sugar in fruit and veg is there?


I'm not cutting out fruit and veg that's extreme, but I am cutting out raw sugar and obvious sweets as well as working up to hidden sugar in items like yogurt and breads.



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