Diane May Nutrition Blog

What Is Added Sugar?

May 7th, 2018

Many people use the term added sugar, but few know what it means. The FDA defines added sugar as “Sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and includes sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type.”  I am always asked how much sugar can I have in a day? The actual answer is none. Sugar is not a nutrient and therefor, there are no formal guidelines and it is not a necessity. WHO (the World Health Organization) and the American Heart Association have stated that women should not have more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day-the equivalent would be 2 glasses of juice and men should have no more than nine teaspoons. Why should we care about added sugar? Because it increases our risk of diabetes, weight gain/obesity, heart disease, hypertension and it is inflammatory in our bodies. Simple sugars, a carbohydrate, are called monosaccharides: glucose, fructose and galactose. These are naturally occurring sugars. The white sugar we are used to is sucrose and is 9 calories per small cube.  Below are some examples of where we find the most added sugar in foods:

  • Ketchup/tomato sauce: 1.5 teaspoons in a 1 ounce serving for ketchup, a third of a jar of tomato sauce can contain as much as 3-4 teaspoons
  • Candy bars: The average candy bar contains 7 teaspoons
  • Soda: The average serving of soda contains 9 teaspoons 
  • Cereals: Raisin bran has 6 teaspoons and frosted flakes has 7 teaspoons

Also, added ingredients such as these are just a few (there are over 200 names) of the other forms of added sugars:

  • agave syrup.
  • brown sugar.
  • cane juice and cane syrup.
  • confectioners’ sugar.
  • corn sweetener and corn syrup.
  • dextrose.
  • fructose.
  • fruit juice concentrates and syrups
  • HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

The best thing to do is to avoid processed foods and sweets as much as possible and to become a savvy label reader. As of now, it is not mandatory for manufacturers to put added sugar on a separate line on a label, but that day is coming. Until then, try and keep your sugar to 5 grams or under in a processed food. When you read a label, ingredients are listed from what they have the most of to the least of.  If sugar is one of the first ingredients, that means there probably is a lot of sugar in that product-compare and find a similar product with less sugar. For example, switch from Raisin Bran to Cheerios- a huge difference in sugar content.

So, what do you do when you want something sweet? Always head for fruit. I recommend no more than two servings of fruit a day. Fruit is NOT free! Eating frozen fruit can also be very satisfying and is a cool treat in the summer.  Look for lower sugar fruits and those that are high in soluble fiber such as berries, apples, pears, clementines and kiwis. The recipe below does have added sugar, which comes from dairy. Be a detective and always pay attention to ingredients and labels!

Ricotta & Yogurt Parfait

From: EatingWell Magazine, November/December 2016

Recipe By:  Sara Haas,

“Reminiscent of a lemon cheesecake, this healthy breakfast recipe is easy to throw together in the morning. Or stir together the filling in a jar the night before and top with the fruit, nuts and seeds when you get to work.”


    • ¾ cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
    • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta
    • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
    • ¼ cup raspberries
    • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds
    • 1 teaspoon chia seeds


  • 1Combine yogurt, ricotta and lemon zest in a bowl. Top with raspberries, almonds and chia seeds.

Nutrition information


  • Serving size: about 1¼ cups
  • Per serving: 258 calories; 10 g fat(3 g sat); 4 g fiber; 21 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein; 19 mcg folate; 19 mg cholesterol; 13 g sugars; 6 g added sugars; 251 IU vitamin A; 9 mg vitamin C; 385 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 125 mg sodium; 398 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (38% daily value)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 1½