Humans have been sweet to sweets for a long time. Before sugar there was honey, the natural sweetener available, as long as you weren’t afraid of bees. Already in the year 8000 a. C., New Guinea and Southeast Asia began to extract juice from the sugar cane plant and to chew it frequently for its sweet taste (something like early chewing gum). With the discovery of granulation a few thousand years later, it was easily transported and slowly introduced into Persia, India, and ultimately Mediterranean countries along trade routes. Around 510 a. The Persian emperor Darío invaded India where he found “the cane that gives honey without bees”.
During medieval times, sugar was quite expensive and was considered a good spice, along with salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper. Although the sweetening still depended mainly on honey and fruits (such as dates), it reached the West Indies, thanks to Christopher Columbus, a sweet boy, as he carried sugar on his second trip there, specifically to Hispaniola, which now it is Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Ironically, the ancient Greeks and Romans considered it medicinal. (Oh boy wouldn’t that be great?)
As recently as two hundred years ago, when sugar was a premium product, the average American consumed only about 5 pounds a year. These days, the average American consumes a staggering 150 to 170 pounds of sugar in a year, which equates to 1/4 to 1/2 pound a day (30 to 35 five-pound bags pictured). Oh! You’re thinking, no way, I’m not. Well, even if you don’t drink soda or sweetened beverages, added sugar lurks in many foods that you may not be aware of. Sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup can be found in everyday staples that we use generously without thinking – ketchup, hot dogs, processed foods, canned goods, peanut butter, salad dressings, the list is endless.
The American Heart Association recommends that added sugars do not exceed 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) for men; 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) for women. Heck, a soda or a chocolate bar gets it out of the water.
So where is all this sugar creeping into our diets? We’ll see:
Children’s juice boxes, even if it says 100% juice, can contain 15 to 22 grams of sugar for a 6 to 8 oz. Serving. They may also be drinking soda
Lunchables, frequently found in children’s lunch boxes, 14 g sugar
Honey Smacks boxed cereal is 60% flat sugar (20g)
Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops come in (12g)
How about those drinks that you think are healthier? Many popular fruit smoothies contain more than 40g in the small size.
Your Favorite Mixed Drinks at Starbucks:
Tall Caramel Frappuccino (12 oz) 46 g
Horchata Almond Milk Frappuccino (16 oz) 66 g
The average 12-ounce can of soda contains about 8 teaspoons of simple sugar. It only takes four 12-ounce cans of soda to equal 1/4 pound! For some people, drinking this amount of soda in a day is not a difficult task to accomplish. For many, it is a daily habit; other popular sodas average 13g to 16g.
One of the most popular cookies on the store shelf:
Chips Ahoy, only three cookies give 33 g;
Twinkies (2 cakes) 33 g;
So let’s move on to what may not be so obvious:
Low-fat yogurt can add up to 47 grams of sugar (zowie)
Sports drink (32 g)
Ragu Chunky Pasta Sauce 12g sugar (per 1/2 cup)
Canned vegetables 10 g per serving
Glazed donut 12 g
One scoop of premium ice cream, up to 19g (add 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup another 19g)
Chocolate shake (fast food) 74 g sugar
2 tablespoons of honey mustard dressing have 5 grams of sugar; the same serving of fat-free French is 7 grams (and few people use just 2 tablespoons)
Half granola bar 24 g
(Author’s Note: Many low-fat or fat-free products contain added sugar, and keep in mind that drinking orange or apple juice is still sugar)
So, just for fun, let’s add up a typical American food daily intake (average servings) 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon:
Breakfast: orange juice, cereals, coffee (20 g, 12 g) smoothie or two donuts to go (40 g or 24 g)
Lunch: Head to the fast food joint where you can have a cheeseburger, fries, lots of tomato sauce, and a chocolate shake (9g, 14g, 74g)
Afternoon: blended coffee pick me up (46g) or smash into the office vending machine for a chocolate bar, soda (30g, 39g)
Dinner: Frozen main course, salad with dressing, 4 cookies, iced tea with sugar (16g, 20g, 44g, 4g)
Late night snack: peanut butter with crackers (14g + 2g), cola (39g)
Total: 337g, which translates to a whopping 84 teaspoons of sugar per day (and that’s conservative). Oh!
No matter what you call it, corn syrup, maltose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, solid corn syrup, fruit, malt syrup, concentrates, high fructose corn juice syrup, honey, liquid fructose, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, syrup and white sugar, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, mannitol, malted barley, maltodextrin, rice syrup and still counting , it spells sugar and the human body makes no difference. (Also, you need a chemistry degree just to pronounce the names.) You have a good day.