Cavities, weight gain, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease are just some of the conditions related to consuming large amounts of sugar. While large amounts of sugar can contribute to a number of health problems, the right amount of sugar in your diet makes sure that your body functions properly. Sugar that is found naturally in certain foods — such as fruit and milk — can help provide a source of energy and also help your brain to function properly and avoid blackouts. But how much sugar is too much if you have diabetes?
Sugar, which is one of the main forms of carbohydrates, can be found in many foods and is widely consumed. In the United States, the average person has about 22 teaspoons, or 110 grams, of sugar per day, or 16 teaspoons more than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended amount of six. If you’re diabetic, you likely have personalized recommendations for carbohydrate consumption to maintain your blood sugar levels.
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How Sugar Affects Your Body
Having diabetes does not mean that you cannot consume sugar, but you should do so in moderation and according to your doctor’s recommendations. It is generally suggested that you limit your intake of high sugar foods and beverages to two or three times a week or less. It also is important to be aware of portion sizes when consuming these items, which include cakes, candies, jellies and jams, ice cream, and soft drinks.
Too much sugar can be unhealthy for anyone, but conditions like diabetes can often be managed with dietary interventions alone, rather than with medications. Sticking to a diet plan that helps you control your blood sugar can be successful when sugar and total carbohydrates are consumed in moderate portion sizes.
Check out the comparisons below to test your knowledge on the average sugar content of various foods and beverages.
*Sugar content is approximate, based on estimates provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.
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Which Foods Contain More Sugar?
1. 8oz of skim milk (11g) or 8 oz of vanilla flavored soymilk (8g)
Although it may be surprising, skim milk has more sugar than flavored soymilk. The sugar naturally found in cow’s milk is called lactose.
2. 8 oz of 100% apple juice (28g) or 8 oz of 100% orange juice (22g)
Apple juice has a little more sugar, just as apples have typically have a higher sugar content than oranges.
3. 1 cup grapes (20g) or a 1.5 oz box of raisins (25g)
A small box of raisins has about five more grams of sugar than a cup of grapes. Dried fruits are usually higher in sugar because most of their water content has been removed, concentrating their natural sugars.
4. Flavored yogurt cup (20g) or Flavored Greek yogurt cup (10-20g)
Greek yogurt can contain anywhere from 10-20 grams of sugar per cup, which when on the higher end, is comparable to regular flavored yogurt.
5. Prepackaged applesauce cup (22g) or one medium-sized apple (19g)
On average, prepackaged single servings of applesauce contain 22 grams of sugar, which is slightly more than a medium apple.
6. ½ cup marinara sauce (7-12g) or ½ cup Alfredo sauce (2g or less)
Marinara sauce has more sugar than Alfredo sauce. The tomatoes in the red sauce contribute to its sugar content.
7. 1 Tbsp butter (0 g) or 1 Tbsp ketchup(3.7 g)
When it comes to condiments, butter does not contain any sugar, but ketchup has almost 4 grams.
8. 1 medium potato (1.7 g) or 1 medium sweet potato (5 g)
Sweet potatoes have more sugar than regular potatoes, but sweet potatoes may actually create less of an increase in your blood sugar levels because they are lower on the glycemic index — a scale used to measure how carbohydrates raise your blood glucose level — than regular potatoes.
For personalized nutrition recommendations, talk to your endocrinologist. For more information on diabetes nutrition, please visit UPMC.com/Endocrinology or call 412-586-9700 to schedule an appointment.
The UPMC Department of Endocrinology stands as a national leader in research of diabetes and endocrine conditions. We partner with the University of Pittsburgh Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism for research and clinical trials. We treat diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, hormonal disorders, and thyroid disorders at several locations across western Pennsylvania. We also have specialized Diabetes Centers to help you manage your disease. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian among the top hospitals in the country for endocrinology and diabetes care.