How much sugar is in the foods you eat and think are healthy?

How much sugar do you consume in one year?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American consumes anywhere between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars in one year.

Less than 100 years ago, the average intake of sugar was only about 4 pounds per person per year.

You may be thinking, “I do not consume that much!” But it's possible you just aren't aware of the amount of sugar in the every day foods you eat.  Some are natural sugars, but many are added by manufacturers.

This is a topic I wrote about a year or two (or three?) again.   I had came across the Sugar Stacks website and loved how they put a visual of the sugar content to some every day foods!  The images below are from their site and do an excellent job at helping you see the sugar content of some random foods in our everyday American diets.

They look at the total sugar content and because they want to keep it as simple to understand as possible, they don't differentiate between all the various kinds of sugars;  they just want you to start thinking about the sugar content of foods and how much sugar you might be eating all day without realizing it.  

Americans consume refined sugars in numerous forms – there are the obvious sugary culprits – doughnuts, cookies, cake and ice cream. However, sugar is hidden in so much of what we consume every day. Sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup can be found in salad dressings, breads, hot dogs, peanut butter, pickles, canned-fruits, vegetables and soups, ketchup, crackers, cookies, frozen dinners, and several other food products.

There are 120 teaspoons in one pound of sugar.
This means 1/4 pound of sugar is equivalent to 30 teaspoons and 1/2 pound of sugar is equivalent to 60 teaspoons. Eating 150-170 pounds of sugar in one year is equivalent to consuming 1/4 to 1/2 pounds of sugar each day. That is 30-60 teaspoons of sugar in a 24 hour period.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:

Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons).
Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).

There are many different names for sugar: Sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dehydrated cane juice, fructose, glucose, dextrose, syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup and more. Be aware that other sugars often labelled healthy like agave, honey, organic cane sugar and coconut sugar fall into the same category.

What are added sugars?

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. They do not include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk (lactose) and fruits (fructose). Added sugars (or added sweeteners) include natural sugars (such as white sugar, brown sugar and honey) as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup). Some names for added sugars include agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar, syrup.

What is the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates?

All carbohydrates are made up of units of sugar ("saccharide"). Carbohydrates containing only one unit of sugar (called "monosaccharides") or two units of sugar (called "disaccharides") are known as simple sugars or simple carbohydrates. Simple sugars are quickly broken down and provide a very fast increase in blood sugar, while complex carbs take longer and cause blood sugar to rise more gradually. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, peas, etc.), breads, cereals, rice and grains. Complex carbs are broken down into the simple sugars during digestion, which causes them to be processed more slowly in the body.

Why are sugars added to food?

Sugars are often added to foods during processing to make them sweeter or change the taste.

Source:  American Heart AssociationPrint Friendly and PDF