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A Sugar By Another Name

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

When it comes to health, not all sugars are equal.

You may have noticed the addition of Added Sugars to Nutrition Facts Labels. Let us explain what they are, how they differ from naturally-occurring sugars and how much to enjoy as part of a healthful meal plan.


Added -vs- Naturally-Occurring

Intrinsic sugars are those naturally-occurring, thanks to Mother Nature, in foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables and plain milk. These sugars are responsible for the sweetness experienced when drinking a glass of milk or munching on fresh strawberries.

Extrinsic, or added, sugars are added to foods to create sweet flavor and/or perform a function such as caramelization in cookie recipes.

Many of us eat multiple sources of added sugars throughout the day. For example, if you enjoy vegetable soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, side salad and a latte for lunch you may be ingesting added sugars from each item. Table sugar may have been added to the soup during cooking, honey added to the bread dough, agave nectar to the salad dressing and maple syrup to the latte.


Why Care About Added Sugar?

Your intake of intrinsic sugars is not what health experts are concerned about. If only most people were eating enough fruits each day to meet their daily Fruit Food Group goal—let alone over meeting it!

Rather, it is the excess calories consumed by added sugars that is problematic.


Research indicates eating too many added sugars may contribute to weight gain and/or difficulty with weight management while increasing your risk for heart disease and diabetes.


Enjoy This Much

The American Heart Association® recommends no more than 150 calories (or 36 grams) of added sugar each day for men and 100 calories (or 25 grams) for women.


Have a bit of difficulty visualizing grams of sugar? Keep this in mind: 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon.

This means each day, men should aim for no more than 9 teaspoons, and women 6 teaspoons, added sugar from sources such as organic cane sugar, honey, molasses, agave nectar, brown sugar, corn syrup, granulated sugar, etc.



Be mindful of easy-to-miss sources of added sugar and sweeten meals naturally with intrinsic sugars—so you can have your cake and eat (a bit of) it too!

Published 2/7/2022