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Sugar: Updated

Published: April 26, 2013

How much sugar?
How much sugar?
Sugar, a carbohydrate, either in its natural forms or in refined processed forms, is a component of many foods and beverages.  For decades, nutritional health educators have been concerned about the overconsumption of sugar associated with the addition of refined sugar, in various forms, to foods and beverages.
Overconsumption of sugar has now become a significant health concern in a society where the incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes is increasing not only in adults, but more problematically in children and young people. 
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are themselves associated with increased risk of heart disease and some cancers. 
We are swamped with media advertisements and it can be difficult to resist the allure of sweetened beverages and candies, cookies, cakes, donuts and desserts which have become normal everyday foods for  many people. 
Refined sugar, not to be confused with the sugars that are naturally found in many foods, should not exceed 25 % of your total daily carbohydrate intake.  This equates to about 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. If you drink three cups of tea or coffee each and use 2 teaspoons of sugar each time, then you will have consumed the maximum amount of refined sugar. 
Refined sugar is added to yogurts, and contained in baked goods and desserts which may be a regular part of your diet. A cola beverage may contain the equivalence of 5 - 6 teaspoons of refined sugar.  The amount of refined sugar in your diet can quickly add up. 
Refined sugars provide you with energy, but have no other nutritional value. The term “empty calorie” is often given to foods and beverages which only supply you with energy.  
Refined sugars are devoid of vitamins, minerals and fibre and often the foods they are added to do not make up for these deficiencies.
Natural sugars are usually associated with foods that provide you with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fibre, protein and fat: all necessary nutrients for health.
A sugar molecule
A sugar molecule
A diet containing significant amounts of foods containing refined sugar such as sodas, cookies, candies and cakes while providing energy (calories) lacks the vitamins, minerals, and fibre that your body requires.
While small amounts of added sugar can be accommodated in a healthy diet, when consumed in large quantities sugar may contribute to nutrient deficiencies, disease and tooth decay. Diets containing significant amounts of added sugar are thus a significant cause for concern, but identifying foods that contain "healthful" sugars is not an easy task and requires more...

Related Topics

Diet  Health  Food Choices  Nutrients  Carbohydrates 


Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Brand Miller, J., Foster-Powell, K., Colagiuri, S. & Leeds, A. (1998). The GI Factor. Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder Headline Australia Pty.