Where Sugar Is Lurking

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Sugar is bad, we are told.

We know that it’s linked to weight gain and uneven energy levels, so (sometimes) we try to avoid it. But most of us don’t know that the FDA recommends limiting sugar intake to the highly specific daily quantities of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. The issue here is that most Americans don’t know just by looking at a strawberry that it contains 0.6 grams of sugar, or that a potato contains 1.7 grams. So that you can be informed and stay under that 38 gram limit, below is a list of places where more sugar is hiding than you may suspect.

Bananas

One banana contains 14 grams of sugar, making it one of the most sugary fruits by volume. They’re certainly a valuable source of potassium, pectin, magnesium, and vitamins C and B6, but it might not be best to eat them daily.

Snapple

Snapple doesn’t claim health benefits, instead using the term “refreshing,” but most people are unaware that Snapple contains more sugar than a 12 oz. can of Coke or Pepsi. But Coke and Pepsi aren’t in the clear– a 12 oz. can of either of them alone exceeds the recommended 38g limit.

Vitamin Water

The name sounds healthy, but is the drink healthy, too? The label of Vitamin Water xxx sports an impressive list of vitamin contents, including a 100% daily recommended value of vitamin C, Pantothenic Acid, Niacin, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12, but a 20-oz bottle contains as much sugar as a can of some varieties of Coke.

Flavored Drinks in General

Teavana and Starbucks recently paired up to release craft iced tea drinks, which each contain more sugar than it might appear. Brands like Pure Leaf Tea send out a health-conscious image, but one bottle of their Sweet Tea has 42g of sugar, more than a can of soda. There is one unsweetened flavor, but most of its flavors are on par with the Sweet Tea flavor.

One notable alternative to high-sugar flavored drinks is Bai Water.

Soda Pop

Okay… You knew soda was unhealthy. But did you know that an adult man could consume some brands’ 12 oz. cans without exceeding the recommended sugar limit? (Of course, assuming he will eat no sugar for the rest of the day?) The difference between a 12 oz. can and a 16 or 20 oz. bottle really matters here, and humans enjoy their desserts the most at the very beginning of their dessert experience. So if you can’t resist soda once in a while, the 12 oz. can is the way to go.

Alcohol

You knew mixed drinks could be sugary, but did you know how sugary? Considering that one shot of alcohol is 1.5 fl oz. and many places pour closer to 1.75 or even 2, if you’re lucky, sugar adds up quickly if you’re ordering a drink that uses any of the following ingredients:

Per 1 oz:

  • Kahlua: 11g
  • Amaretto: 3g
  • Orange juice: 2g
  • Lemonade: 3g
  • Pineapple juice: 3g
  • Cranberry juice: 3g
  • Coca Cola: 3g

Per 5 oz:

  • Wine: 1.2g

To avoid an accidental overload on sugar at the bar, avoid liqueurs and stick to short whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, and tequila-based drinks, or tall drinks without coke or fruit juice. Or opt for some wine– as long as it’s not a Riesling.

Ice Cream

Various brands and flavors differ in sugar content, but an average scoop of ice cream contains about 14 grams of sugar, or about one banana.

Yogurt

Yogurt has its benefits, like probiotic properties, but sugar content varies greatly by genre and brand. One single-serving container of Oikos yogurt contains 19 grams of sugar, while comparable flavors of Chobani contain 15 grams. According to Clean and Lean Revolution, 9 grams of these 15 are added sugar, and eating one Chobani yogurt per day would mean consuming 8.5 pounds of sugar in a single year– just from yogurt. Siggi’s yogurt, a newer option, says it has more protein than sugar per container, which is excellent. It is possible to find yogurt with no sugar or alternative sweeteners, but such yogurt is usually full-fat and plain. When buying yogurt, make sure to read the nutrition label, because it really adds up.

Maple Syrup

If you are like most Americans with tongues, you have a loving relationship with syrup. You pour it all over your pancakes and your french toast, you use it to fill up all the holes in your waffle. You know how to syrup a breakfast like no one’s business. But as it turns out, that’s not just a morning indulgence, it’s actually dangerous for your health.

Traditional, run-of-the mill authentic maple syrup contains 53 grams of sugar per quarter-cup serving. This might sound okay until you remember that one quarter cup is nothing, and the vast majority of people don’t measure it out before drowning their pancakes in it. There persists a perception, stated or unstated, that maple syrup is better for you than artificially produced syrup, and as far as sugar content goes, that’s true. One serving of Aunt Jemima Syrup contains the same amount of sugar as one serving of regular maple syrup, but each serving is 2 ⅔ smaller.

Trader Joe’s sells maple-agave syrup as if that’s healthier than full-on maple syrup, but the nutrition label whispers otherwise. Apparently one quarter cup of the stuff, which equals four tablespoons, contains 52 grams of sugar (and 210 calories). To put that in perspective, one quarter cup of straight-up sugar is said to be 50 grams. That means per volume, syrup is more sugary than sugar… Yikes.

Tips

This list may be a shock, especially if you remember the recommended 38g daily limit. But the good news for all sweet-toothed readers is that curbing sugar intake to recommended limits for three uninterrupted weeks will stop the cravings. And here’s a little-recognized concept: regulating sugar intake can be as beneficial to weight loss as exercise. You’re welcome.