The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Summer Can Be Sweet Without Added Sugar

Posted in
Eat better

Thursday, Jun 18, 2009

One of the goals of Stand Up and Eat is to encourage people to consume fewer foods/beverages with added sugars. Foods with added sugars are often calorie dense and nutrient poor. What exactly are added sugars? Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. They differ from naturally occurring sugars such as those that occur in milk and fruits.

Foods that contain most of the added sugars in American diets are:

  • regular soft drinks
  • candy
  • cakes
  • cookies
  • pies
  • fruit drinks, such as fruitades and fruit punch
  • milk-based desserts and products, such as ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk
  • grain products such as sweet rolls and cinnamon toast

But, there are many other foods/beverages with added sugar, including some of these summertime favorites:

  • ketchup, barbeque sauce
  • pork and beans
  • salad dressing
  • lemonade, bottled tea

How do you know if a food/beverage has added sugars? The Nutrition Facts label lists how many total grams of sugar the food contains, but does not list added sugars separately. The amount listed includes sugars that are naturally present in foods (such as the fructose and sucrose in fruit, or the lactose in milk) and sugars added to the food during processing or preparation. So, you need to read the ingredient list on the food label as well as the Nutrition Facts. Some sneaky names for sugar that you may see in the list of ingredients include:

  • corn sweetener, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup
  • fruit juice concentrates   
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • malt syrup, syrup 
  • molasses  

How much added sugars should someone consume each day? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 do not provide specific recommendations for added sugars but rather advise Americans to choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners. The Guidelines do, however, suggest that Americans on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, who divide their discretionary calorie allowance equally between solid fats and added sugars, limit consumption of added sugars and sweeteners to 8 teaspoons (32 grams) per day - less than the amount in one 12-ounce can of soda (approximately 39 grams of sugar). According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consumed 30 teaspoons per person per day of added sugars and sweeteners in 2005. This finding suggests that Americans, on average, need to scale way back on added sugars and sweeteners!

For a list of the amount of added sugars in over 2,000 common foods, click here. What will you do this summer to reduce your intake of added sugars?