The Real Killer Sugars and where They’re Hiding Out


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Please don’t tell me that you’re an average American! If you are, that means you consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day – mainly from sodas, candy, cereals and yeast breads. And please, please tell me that you haven’t been supersizing your soft drinks or sneaking a Snickers bar!

Fact: USDA recommends a limit of 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of added sugar a day and 1 tsp = 4 grams or 16 calories. Added sugar means over and above the sugars naturally occurring in fruits or vegetables that are metabolized differently from simple sugars.


The Real Killer

High-Fructose Corn Sugar is the biggest culprit. HCFS can also be found hiding out as glucose-fructose, fructose syrup or just plain fructose. It’s a cheaper sweetener than regular table sugar (sucrose) for big-time food manufacturers and has become the go-to for everything from jelly, juice, sodas, whole-grain breads, cereals, ketchup, crackers, yogurt, mayonnaise, sweet pickles, applesauce, salad dressing, ice cream, cough syrup and lots more as pointed out in On average, Americans consume 60 lbs. of High Fructose Corn Syrup per person per year!

There’s a lot of technical stuff concerning HFCS, such as:

  • the percentage composition and chemical structure of the two main HFCSs,
  • studies linking HFCS consumption to obesity and diabetes (in lab rats),
  • the fact that fructose is only metabolized in the liver and once the liver has done its job, if there is too much glucose in the blood, the fructose is stored as visceral fat.

We’ll leave that for now, however, given the fact that HFCS has around 10% more fructose than table sugar, that means that the fructose has a correspondingly higher possibility of storage as visceral fat than does sugar (the chemical structure of both is different, as is the way they are metabolized).

I’m Driving My Husband Crazy

I’m rummaging through our kitchen cupboards and looking hard at the amount of sugar added to the average serving in everything from ketchup to salad dressings to sodas looking for high-fructose corn syrup on the labels. Hard to find exactly how much!

I thought a 333ml can of regular Coke would have far more sugar and calories than a 333ml can of upscale San Pelegrino Limonata. First of all, the “sugar” in American Coke is actually High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS) while San Pelegrino lists only sugar as the ingredient (and plenty of it – 33 grams or 8 tsps.) The kicker is that the Limonata has 130 calories while the Coke has 139. And you just thought the San Pelegrino was “healthier”!

Starting Your Day Right

Here’s a (very) partial list of just Breakfast Items and their sugar content:

Instant Hot Cereal

  • Instant Cream of Wheat, Apples ‘n Cinnamon: 1 envelope = 16 grams sugar, 130 calories
  • Instant Cream of Wheat, Cinnamon Swirl: 14 grams sugar, 130 calories
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal Dinosaur Eggs (made with whole-grain oats): 1 envelope = 14 grams sugar, 190 calories
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Cinnamon Roll: 1 envelope = 13 grams sugar, 160 calories:
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Strawberries & Cream or Peaches & Cream: 1 envelope = 12 grams sugar, 130 calories

Breakfast Cereals

  • Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart, Toasted Oat: 1 1/4 cup = 17 grams sugar, 220 calories
  • Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran: 3/4 cup = 15 grams sugar, 200 calories
  • Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart, Original Antioxidant: 1 cup = 14 grams sugar, 190 calories
  • Quaker Oatmeal Squares: 1 cup = 13 grams sugar, 210 calories
  • Frosted Mini-Wheats (all the different flavors are pretty much the same): 1.8 ounces = 12 grams sugar, 180 calories
  • Special K Fruit & Yogurt: 3/4 cup = 11 grams sugar, 120 calories

And your healthy yogurt?

  • Yoplait Original 99% fat free, Lemon Burst: 6 ounces = 31 grams sugar, 180 calories
  • Yoplait Thick & Creamy Yogurt, Strawberry: 6 ounces = 28 grams sugar, 180 calories
  • Yoplait Original 99% fat free, Boysenberry: 6 ounces = 27 grams sugar, 170 calories

Tip: To enjoy yogurt without the added sugar, make your own flavored yogurt starting with plain yogurt. Or, buy the light yogurts that use alternative sweeteners.

The takeaway here?

  • Get used to reading the labels on everything (!)
  • Limit yourself and your loved ones to the recommended 10 tsps (40 grams) a day as much as possible and
  • Imprint this factoid on your brain: 1 tsp = 4 grams = 16 calories!

And while you’re at it…take a tip from my husband who just said “If you can’t pronounce what’s on the label, don’t buy it!!”