How Much Sugar Is Actually In Things We Eat?

    Sugar is known by many alternate names. These include white poison and white death, with these tags attributed to the detrimental health effects of sugar. However, on labels sugar are of course not listed out as white death or white poison – for there would be no sales! Learning how much sugar is actually in things we eat is shocking.

    The consumer community is not naïve. Thanks to the rise in the trend of better eating habits and careful consumption and better eating, people have become more aware of their health status. Customers read the food labels and generally put in an effort at making smart and healthy choices. Titles like added sugars and total sugar content do not get a discount by health-conscious individuals. This is why some labels are used as front covers to mask the sugar content of food items. Most of them are scientific names. A layman consumer may not appreciate the difference between the different terms used for sugar.

    If you are a keen shopper with an enthusiastic attitude towards your health, this subject article is for you. You will be amazed at how much sugar is actually in things we eat. Companies hide the sugar content of foods, even the ones we deem as seemingly healthy. But first, is sugar all that bad?

    Sugar & Your Health

    Sugar is not bad altogether. It is the quality that matters and not all versions of sugar are created equal. Sugar is naturally found as carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products. They are our body’s key source of energy. Since these natural sources of carbs contain sugars in complex form, they cater to a steady energy source.

    But anything in excess is bad, right? Consuming high amounts of complex carbohydrates can lead to chronic disease states as heart ailments and diabetes.

    This risk is increased manifolds when sugar is consumed in simple forms as added ingredients. Our body has no way to store these excess carbohydrates and converts any extra carbs and sugars into fat stores. We do not need to elaborate on the damaging health effects of being overweight or developing a wider waist now, do we?

    Unfortunately, these sugary add-ons are not limited to sweetened products only. Foods like soup, ketchup, sauces, bread, processed meat all contain sugar as hidden ingredients.  

    Why is there so much sugar in the food we eat? To increase the shelf life or to enhance the flavor of the product, perhaps. Whatever the reason be, excess sugar instigates a vicious cycle of inflammation in the body and sends out an unwanted invitation to many disease processes.

    According to the American Heart Association, an American adult consumes around 77 grams of sugar per day, which equals to about fifteen to sixteen teaspoons of sugar every day. If you are not adding this much sugar to your food, then where is the added sugar coming from? Read on to understand where that hidden sugar content is sneaking in from. 

    What To Look Out For In Labels

    There are more than sixty names for sugar. Some terms to look out for include:

    • Names that end with the suffix sugar, such as coconut sugar, date sugar. Here are other prefix possibilities:  brown, raw, cane, beet, buttered, castor, coconut, date, golden, rapadura, palm, invert, muscovado as well as  confectioners sugars
    • Names ending with syrup, corn sweetener or corn, rice or rice bran, high-fructose, maple, carob, golden, oat syrups
    • Any name ending in “-ose” like dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose and sucrose
    • Cane juice crystal
    • Fruit juice concentrates or fruit nectars
    • Honey
    • Molasses
    • Agave nectar
    • Dextran, malt powder
    • Ethylmaltol
    • Maltodextrin
    • Evaporated cane juice

    How Much Hidden Sugar Do We Eat?

    We consume sugar-laden foods without having second thoughts about their sugar content. A lot of times this is unintentional. Let us see what the sneaky ones can be:

    1. Breakfast Cereals, whole-grain breakfast bars, instant oatmeal

    These top the list when it comes to how much processed sugar we actually eat. Often tagged whole-grain, they are anything but healthy because they contain a small number of whole grains and hefty sugar content. Additives like dry fruit, chocolate chips can spike the sugar levels to 10-15 grams per packet in instant oats. Do you think your bran cereal is healthy? Think again; a bran cereal has 10-20 grams of sugar or more per cup.

    2. Plain yogurt or flavored Greek yogurt

    Did you know an 8-ounce serving of low-fat version yogurt equals two scoops of chocolate ice-cream? That amounts to 17-33 grams of sugar per serving.

    3. Condiments

    About 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon, condiments like ketchup deliver a substantial dose of sugar. The same goes for barbecue, hoisin, teriyaki sauces and relish.

    4. Protein and granola bars

    Bars may be as much as 30 grams of added sugar in a single bar of protein or granola bar.

    5. Pasta or spaghetti sauce

    Sauces are savory yet still contain about 6-12 grams of sugar per half-cup.

    6. Salad dressings

    Sweet salad dressings like French and Catalina contain about 5 to 7 grams of sugar per two tablespoons.

    7. Drinks like bottled flavored water, smoothies

    From 24-32 grams of sugar per bottle, ice and flavored teas do not meet the merit of a healthy option. Similarly, instant coffee drinks or other varieties like espresso contain milk and sugar, making them not a smart choice.

    8. Packaged fruit

    We drool when thinking about eating tinned-fruits but know that they are high in sugars. Mandarin oranges in light syrup have about 39 grams of sugar per cup.

    9. Coleslaw

    A regular-size serving of coleslaw provides about 15 grams of sugar.

    10. Dry fruit

    Dry fruits contain more sugar by volume. For example, a small box of raisins contains more than 25 grams of sugar.

    11. Apple sauce

    Apple sauce contains about 22 grams of sugar in a small container.

    12. Sports and energy drinks

    Some brands may have about 25 grams per 8-ounce serving. How about simple water instead?

    13. Jerky

    Savory but can contain about 10 grams of sugar per serving.

    1. Protein powder
    1. Tomato sauce
    1. Crackers
    1. Nut butter
    1. Non-dairy milk
    1. Bread
    1. Gummy vitamins
    1. Marinades
    1. Tonic water


    So next time you read a ‘no added sugar’ or ‘natural sugars only,’ be wary. It’s shocking how much sugar is actually in food we eat. Even some of the healthiest foods may not contain what they make out to be. Reading the food labels and knowing what they mean is the essential step in identifying the added sugars. It is important to understand what you are putting in your body and that your hard-earned money is spent.


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