Humans have been sweet on candies for a lengthy time. Before sugar there was honey, the available natural sweetener, provided that you weren’t afraid of bees. As far back as 8000 BC, New Guinea and Southeast Asian began extracting juice from the sugar cane plant and frequently chewing it for its sweet flavor (kind of like early chewing gum). With the discovery of granulation a couple thousand years later, it was readily transported and gradually introduced to Persia, India and finally the Mediterranean nations along the trade routes. About 510 BC the Persian Emperor Darius invaded India where he discovered “the reed that gives honey without bees.”
During medieval times, sugar was quite expensive and regarded as a fine spice, together with salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper. Although sweetening still relied mainly on fruits and honey (such as dates) it made its way into the West Indies, because of Christopher Columbus, a sweet man, since he carried sugar on his second voyage there, especially to Hispaniola, what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Paradoxically, early Greeks and Romans considered it medicinal. (Oh boy, would not that be good.)
As recent as two hundred years ago, when sugar was a premium commodity, 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 1 year, which plays out to 1/4 to 1/2 pound every day (picture 30 to 35 five-pound luggage). Yikes. You’re thinking, no way, not me. Well, even if you don’t drink soft drinks or carbonated beverages, additional sugar is lurking in so many foods where you might not realize. Sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup can be seen in everyday basics which we use liberally without a thought: ketchup, hot dogs, processed foods, canned goods, peanut butter, salad dressings, the list is endless.
The American Heart Association recommends added sugars should not exceed 150 calories daily (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) for men; 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) for girls. Heck, one soft drink or candy bar blows that out of the water. Let’s take a look:
Juice boxes for children, even if it says 100% juice, may comprise 15 to 22 grams of sugar for a 6 to 8 ounce serving. They may also be drinking soda pop
Lunchables, often found in children’s lunch boxes, 14 grams sugar
Honey Smacks boxed cereal is 60% flat-out sugar (20 gram)
Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops both come in at (12 g)
How about these drinks you think are healthier: many popular fruit smoothies contain over 40 g in the small size
Your favorite mixed drinks at Starbucks:
Tall Caramel Frappuccino (12 ounce) 46 g
Horchata Almond milk Frappuccino (16 oz) 66 g
Average 12-ounce can of soda contains about 8 teaspoons of simple sugar. It only takes four 12-ounce cans of soda to equivalent 1/4 pound! For many people, drinking this amount of pop in one day is not a difficult task to accomplish. For many, it’s a daily habit; other popular soft drinks average 13 g to 16 g.
Among the most popular cookies on your grocers’ shelf:
Chips Ahoy, just three biscuits delivers 33 g;
So let’s move on to what might not be as obvious:
Sports beverage (32 g)
Ragu Chunky pasta sauce 12 g sugar (per 1/2 cup)
Glazed doughnut 12 g
One scoop of premium ice cream, up to 19 g (add 2 T chocolate syrup another 19 g)
Two Tablespoons of Honey Mustard Dressing contains 5 grams of sugar; the same serving of fat-free French has 7 g, (and few people use only 2 Tablespoons)
Average granola snack bar 24 gram
(author’s note: Lots of low or fat-free products contain extra sugar, and keep in mind that drinking orange juice or apple juice remains sugar)
So just for fun, let’s add up a typical American daily food consumption (average portions) 4 g of sugar equals 1 teaspoon:
Breakfast: orange juice, cereal, coffee (20 g, 12 gram) smoothie or 2 donuts on the run (40 gram or 24 g)
Lunch: off to the fast food joint where you grab a cheeseburger, fries, lots of ketchup and a chocolate shake (9 g, 14 g, 74 g)
Afternoon: mixed coffee pick me up (46 g) or raiding the office vending machine for a candy bar, soft drink (30 gram, 39 g)
Late night snack: peanut butter with crackers (14 g + 2 g), cola (39 g)
Total: 337 g which translates to a whopping 84 teaspoons of sugar to the day (and that is conservative). Yikes.
No matter what you call it, corn syrup, maltose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, fruit juice, malt syrup, concentrates, high-fructose corn 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 doesn’t differentiate. (Plus you require a degree in chemistry merely to announce the names.) Have a sweet day.