Essential Guide to Sugar


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Sugar. This five-letter word is one of the most controversial and talked about topics in nutrition. Everyone seems to have an opinion about this sticky subject. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you go rogue with the sugar dispenser in your morning coffee.

Sugar is a natural component of foods such as fruit, veggies, dairy products and grains. Sugar in these foods is bound in a complicated matrix of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and water.

Added sugar refers to sources of sugar added during processing beyond the level that occurs naturally and includes everything from honey to fruit juice concentrates. Added sugars tend to be energy dense and nutrient-poor. That is, they offer little nutritional value beyond calories and carbohydrates.

Eating too much added sugar is related to poor dietary quality, elevated triglycerides and possibly excess calorie consumption, which contributes to weight gain. Being overweight and obese are risk factors for a number of chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

Consuming more calories than you need in any form can be problematic, but consuming a diet rich in sources of naturally occurring sugar like fruit, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy does not have the same damaging impact as noshing on too much added sugar. In fact, some of those foods have been shown to buffer your risk of chronic disease.


Each serving contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving. It can contain artificial sweeteners to boost sweetness.

Low Sugar
No established definition.

A product contains 25% less sugar compared to the original item with its original serving size


The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar for women. This is roughly the amount of sugar found in 9–12 ounces of soda or 12–15 large jelly beans. The average American consumes 77 grams of added sugar per day, however, sugar intake appears to be trending downward.


The relationship between added sugar intake and chronic disease is complex but everyone can probably stand to benefit from a little less sweetness. Even a modest reduction in sugar intake, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages, may offer these benefits:

  • Reduce energy intake
  • Improved blood glucose control and energy levels
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Reduced risk of tooth decay and improved dental health
  • Improvements in acne

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