Every year, Action on Sugar, a U.K.-based non-profit organization, hosts Sugar Awareness Week, an event that provides evidence-based education about the danger of excess sugar consumption, a leading cause of the obesity epidemic facing many nations. Even though the event falls in the third week in January, being aware of how much sugar we consume is something we should be cognizant of all year round.
This year’s theme was “What’s in Your Drink?” This is powerful because sugary beverages like sodas, energy drinks, and fruit juices, are consistently among the largest contributors to excess sugar and calories in the American diet.
Oftentimes, we don’t even realize or think about the number of calories we’re drinking on a daily basis. And, the fact that these drinks are loaded with simple sugar means they spike blood sugar, leading to an inevitable crash afterward. That crash is accompanied by a powerful craving for more sugar, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.
We’ve talked before about sugary drinks, and specifically their impact on your teeth. But, in support of Sugar Awareness Week, we want to help you test your knowledge from a total health perspective. Take this short quiz to learn your own level of sugar awareness!
Test your sugar awareness
- How many calories are there in one gram of sugar?
- Less than 1
- How many grams of sugar are in the average sugar-sweetened drink?
- How many grams of added sugar should you be eating each day?
- How many grams of added sugar does the average American eat every day?
- Which of the following are names for added sugar that you may find on a nutrition label?
- Fruit juice concentrate
- High fructose corn syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Agave nectar
- None of the above
- All of the above
- Which popular category of “diet” foods contain more sugar than their original “unhealthy” counterparts?
- Low carb foods
- Low fat foods
- High protein foods
- Sugar-free foods
- Which of these health conditions have been linked to eating too much sugar?
- Dental caries (cavities)
- Heart disease
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney disease
- All of the above
- True or false: It’s possible to never eat another gram of added sugar.
- Sugar is a carbohydrate. Therefore, each gram of sugar contains four calories. Of course, unlike some other carbohydrates, sugar often has no nutritional value. When it’s added as an ingredient in sugar-sweetened beverages, it contains no vitamins, minerals, or other micronutrients. And, most importantly, it contains no fiber, which is nature’s balance to the blood sugar spike sugar can induce. That’s why it’s far healthier to eat a fresh orange than to drink a glass of orange juice.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages include sodas, sweetened fruit juices, sweet iced tea, energy drinks, and bottled coffee beverages. Each brand and flavor is different, but the products readily available in the U.S. generally range between 20 and 49 grams of sugar, with the average sugar content for one serving being 37 grams. It’s important to note, however, that many of these products are sold in containers that hold two or even three servings. So, for example, if you drink an entire 20-ounce bottle of Coca Cola, you’ll have consumed 65 grams of sugar.
- The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women eat no more than 25 grams of added sugars per day, and men limit themselves to no more than 39 grams. As you can see, just one serving of the average soft drink can easily max out your entire day’s recommended allowance.
- The average American consumes 126.4 grams of sugar every day, and about 72 of those grams come from added sugars. That’s between two and three times the recommended maximum. It may not be surprising to learn that the United States is the world’s top per capita consumer of sugar with every man, woman, and child eating 152 pounds of sugar, on average, each year.
- All of the ingredients listed in the question are names for added sugar that contain essentially no nutritional value. In fact, there are currently 61 different names for sugar that are approved by the FDA to appear on nutrition labels in the United States. Many sweetened products list two or three different versions to break up the total, allowing the ingredients to appear further down the list of ingredients.
- The low-fat diet has been a mainstay of nutritional and weight-loss science for decades. In theory, it should work since, gram for gram, fat contains more calories than any other nutrient. But, for many Americans, trying to eat a low-fat diet backfires because many of the packaged foods advertised as “low-fat” are loaded with even more added sugar to make up for the flavor the fat provides. The same is true of many low-fat variations of foods that naturally contain fat, like dairy products.
- The clinical evidence is absolutely overwhelming: too much sugar wreaks havoc on your body. All of the health conditions listed have been definitively tied to sugar intake itself, or the inevitable result of eating too much sugar for too long: obesity. Other conditions that could have been added include acne, wrinkles, accelerated cellular aging, gout, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and more.
- This is a tough one, and it may not be the right move for everyone, but the answer is TRUE. With careful planning and diligence, it’s possible to avoid all the many sources of added sugars at restaurants and the grocery store while still eating plenty of healthy, delicious food. There are examples of individuals and families who have done just that, some with excellent results, others not so much. If you can manage it, more power to you, as it can be an incredibly healthy lifestyle. For most of us, however, learning how to avoid it often and indulge occasionally is more realistic and sustainable.
So, how’d you do? Most people are pretty surprised by at least some of these facts about sugar and its effect on health. The real key to take away from this little quiz is how easy the modern diet has made it for you to eat way too much sugar. With some basic facts in the back of your mind, and more heightened awareness in general, you have the tools you need to build a much healthier lifestyle for you and your family.