By Dr. Mercola
The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend limiting your daily added sugar intake to nine teaspoons (38 grams) for men and six teaspoons (25 grams) for women.
I strongly recommend limiting your daily fructose intake to 25 grams or less from all sources, including natural sources such as fruit — regardless of whether you’re male or female. That equates to just over six teaspoons of total sugar a day.
The average American, however, consumes around 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which is more than three times my recommended amount.
There’s simply no doubt that this overconsumption of sugar is fueling the obesity and chronic disease epidemics we’re currently struggling with, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Most people are aware that sugar is present (in abundance) in sweet processed foods like doughnuts, cakes, and candy.
Yet, many are unaware of just how much sugar they’re consuming, as it’s oftentimes hidden under other less familiar names, such as dextrose, maltose, galactose, and maltodextrin, and found in foods you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
According to SugarScience.org, added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names!1 So, needless to say, if you eat processed foods then consuming more than the recommended daily amount of sugar is far easier than you might think.
31 Foods with More Sugar Than a Doughnut
Doughnuts are one of the worst foods you can eat, and they’re also one of the most sugar-laden. So they serve as a good barometer of sugar content. If the food you’re eating contains more sugar than a doughnut, it’s probably not doing your health any favors.
There’s more to a food’s nutritive value than its sugar content alone (so eating a piece of whole fruit with 10 grams of sugar is going to offer you far more value than a doughnut with 10 grams), but the point is that even some “healthy-sounding” foods are too high in sugar to actually be healthy.
Krispy Kreme's original glazed doughnut contains 10 grams of sugar. Take Part, Business Insider, BuzzFeed, and Mother Jones compiled 31 foods that have more sugar than this, some of which may surprise you.2,3,4,5
- Chili’s Caribbean Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken = almost 7 doughnuts (67 grams of sugar)
- Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino = 6 doughnuts (64 grams of sugar)
- Jamba Juice Banana Berry Smoothie, small = 6 doughnuts (60 grams of sugar)
- Odwalla Superfood Smoothie, 15.2 ounces = 5 doughnuts (50 grams of sugar)
- Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake = 4.5 doughnuts (45 grams of sugar)
- California Pizza Kitchen Thai Chicken Salad = 4.5 doughnuts (45 grams of sugar)
- Kraft French Style Fat Free Dressing = 4 doughnuts (42 grams of sugar)
- Dunkin’ Donuts Reduced-Fat Blueberry Muffin = 4 doughnuts (40 grams of sugar
- Snapple Peach Tea = 4 doughnuts (39 grams of sugar)
- Burger King Chicken, Apple, and Cranberry Garden Fresh Salad with Chicken = 4 doughnuts (38 grams of sugar)
- Craisins Dried Cranberries (1.75 ounces) = 3 doughnuts (34 grams of sugar)
- Vitamin Water, 20 ounces = 3 doughnuts (33 grams of sugar)
- Naked Pomegranate Blueberry Juice = 3 doughnuts (32 grams of sugar)
- McDonald’s Fruit and Maple Oatmeal = 3 doughnuts (32 grams of sugar)
- IHOP Whole Wheat Pancakes with Banana, four pancakes without syrup = 3 doughnuts (32 grams of sugar)
- Pom Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice, 8 ounces = 3 doughnuts (31 grams of sugar)
- Starbucks Greek Yogurt and Honey Parfait = 3 doughnuts (30 grams of sugar)
- Starbucks Blueberry Muffin = 3 doughnuts (29 grams of sugar)
- Stonyfield Fat Free Blackberry Blend Yogurt = 3 doughnuts (28 grams of sugar)
- Can of Coca-Cola = 2.5 doughnuts (26.4 grams of sugar)
- Yoplait Blackberry Harvest Yogurt = 2.5 doughnuts (26 grams of sugar)
- Tropicana Orange Juice, 8 ounces = 2 doughnuts (22 grams of sugar)
- Nutella Spread, 2 tablespoons = 2 doughnuts (21 grams of sugar)
- Campbell’s Classic Tomato Soup on the Go = 2 doughnuts (20 grams of sugar)
- Dole Mixed Fruit Cup = 1.5 doughnuts (17 grams of sugar)
- Subway 6" Sweet Onion Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich = 1.5 doughnuts (17 grams of sugar)
- Motts Applesauce (one cup) = 1.5 doughnuts (16 grams of sugar)
- Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Fruit and Nut Granola Bar = 1 doughnut (13 grams of sugar)
- Kellogg’s Froot Loops = 1 doughnut (12 grams of sugar)
- Prego Fresh Mushroom Italian Spaghetti Sauce = 1 doughnut (11 grams of sugar)
- Luna Bar = 1 doughnut (11 grams of sugar)
Beware of Trans Fats and Aldehydes in Doughnuts (and Other Processed Foods)
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 10 percent of Americans consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of added sugars. Further, most adults (71.4 percent) consumed at least 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar.6 Why are added sugars (and natural sugars) making up such a large portion of Americans’ diets rather than, say, leafy greens, eggs, or hot peppers? When you eat refined processed sugars, they trigger production of your brain's natural opioids – a key ingredient in the addiction process.
Your brain essentially becomes addicted to stimulating the release of its own opioids as it would to morphine or heroin. Writing in The Atlantic,7 Dr. Lustig takes on the debate of whether sugar is truly addictive, and essentially proves that it very well is:
- According to an animal study, Oreo cookies are just as addictive as cocaine or morphine, activating more neurons in the brain’s pleasure center than exposure to illicit drugs8
- Rats exposed to sugar water demonstrate all the criteria necessary to diagnose addiction: binging, withdrawal, craving, and addiction transfer (or addiction to other substances as well)9
- Humans want sugar even more than they want fat, as evidenced by a study that showed sugar, but not fat, stimulated the brain’s reward center10
Is Sugar Really a Health Hazard? It Depends on the Dose
The main problem with sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is the fact that your liver has a very limited capacity to metabolize it. According to Dr. Lustig, you can safely metabolize about six teaspoons of added sugar per day. As mentioned, the average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day.11 All that excess sugar is metabolized into body fat, and leads to many of the chronic metabolic diseases we struggle with, including but not limited to:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
A report by Credit Suisse Research Institute, which explored the impact of sugar and sweeteners on humans' diets, also suggested there may be a threshold level in the body for sugar below which it causes little or no harm… but once you pass it, health problems may emerge.12 Consuming small amounts of sugar may not be a problem, but consuming sugar by the pound certainly is.
"While medical research is yet to prove conclusively that sugar is the leading cause of obesity, diabetes type II, and metabolic syndrome, the balance of recent medical research studies are coalescing around this conclusion. Advances in understanding the negative effects of refined carbohydrates on blood sugar regulation and cholesterol, and the metabolic impacts of fructose, are undermining the traditional view that all calories are the same," the report stated.
Are You Ready to Break Free from Sugar?
If you currently eat sugar, there's a good chance you're struggling with sugar addiction. So I highly recommend trying an energy psychology technique called Turbo Tapping, which has helped many "soda addicts" kick their sweet habit, and it should work for any type of sweet craving you may have. Remember that in order to minimize your sugar intake, you need to avoid most processed foods, as most contain added sugar.
If you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you’d be wise to limit your total sugar/fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. For all others, I recommend limiting your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less. Please refer to my free nutrition plan for a step-by-step guide to making positive changes in your diet. You simply cannot achieve optimal health on a diet of processed foods and sugar. A couple of other tricks to try to kick your sugar cravings:
- Exercise: Anyone who exercises intensely on a regular basis will know that significant amounts of cardiovascular exercise is one of the best "cures" for food cravings. It always amazes me how my appetite, especially for sweets, dramatically decreases after a good workout. I believe the mechanism is related to the dramatic reduction in insulin levels that occurs after exercise. Additionally, if you do eat sugars or fruits around the time of the exercise, your sugar levels will not rise as it will metabolized for fuel
- Organic, black coffee: Coffee is a potent opioid receptor antagonist, and contains compounds such as cafestol – found plentifully in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee – which can bind to your opioid receptors, occupy them, and essentially block your addiction to other opioid-releasing food.13,14 This may profoundly reduce the addictive power of other substances, such as sugar.
- Sour taste, such as that from cultured vegetables, helps to reduce sweet cravings, too. This is doubly beneficial, as fermented vegetables also promote gut health. You can also try adding lemon or lime juice to your water.