What you need to know about added sugars

Published: Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Crystal Vaughan, BSN
Assistant Nurse Manager

What is added sugar?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that provides calories for your body to use as energy.

There are two types of sugars: natural and added. Natural sugars are found in unprocessed, whole foods. For example, fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains contain natural sugars. Added sugars are found in processed foods and drinks. Added sugar provides little to no nutritional value and can be found in food/beverage items packaged with sweeteners, syrups, honey, concentrated fruit or vegetable juices and baked goods.

How do I know if food has added sugar?

It’s easy, look at the nutritional label.

Total Sugars include the sugars that are naturally present in many foods and beverages combined with the added sugars that may be in the product. The amount of added sugars, listed in grams, should be directly underneath this heading.

Added sugars can also be listed as sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, fruit juice, molasses, hydrolysed starch, invert sugar, corn syrup and honey on an item’s ingredient list.

As a rule of thumb, a product with less than 5% added sugar makes a good choice. Products with more than 20% of added sugars should be avoided.

How to cut down on sugar in your diet

According to the CDC, in 2017-2018, the average intake of added sugars was 17 teaspoons a day for adults aged 20 and older. Added sugar has been found to contribute to obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer and tooth decay.

  • Cut down on the amount of sugar you add to foods
    Avoid adding sugars, syrups, honey or molasses to the things you eat regularly. Choose healthier foods, such as vegetables, fruit, lean protein and whole grains.
  • Swap out soda for water
    Most added sugars in the American diet come from sugary drinks. If you are still wanting a caffeinated beverage, opt for green tea or black coffee. Also, keep an eye out for fruit juices, as they may be loaded with added sugars.
  • Avoid desserts
    If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, substitute for fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, or dark chocolate. If you find yourself craving a homemade baked good, reduce the amount of sugar that the recipe calls for or substitute it for fruit, extracts, or spices. Most times, you will not be able to tell a difference.
  • Eat fruit
    Fruit comes in many forms: fresh, frozen, dried, or canned. When opting for canned fruit, choose fruit that has been canned in water or natural fruit juice.
  • Compare food labels
    When shopping, look at various food labels. Opt for the product with the least amount of added sugars.

Learn More

The Diabetes Education Program at Northeast Georgia Medical Center is recognized by the American Diabetes Association for quality self-management education. A comprehensive range of educational programs is offered to people with diabetes and their families by experienced, certified diabetes educators, registered nurses, and registered dietitians.

Please call 770-219-0887 or visit Diabetes Services for more information about any of these services.