Humans have been sweet on candies for a lengthy time. Before sugar there was honey, the available natural sweetener, as long as you weren’t afraid of bees. As far back as 8000 BC, New Guinea and Southeast Asian started extracting juice from the sugar cane plant and frequently chewing it for its sweet taste (kind of like early chewing gum). With the discovery of granulation a couple thousand years later, it was easily transported and slowly introduced into Persia, India and finally the Mediterranean nations across the trade routes. Around 510 BC the Persian Emperor Darius invaded India where he discovered “the reed which gives honey without bees.”
During medieval times, sugar was quite expensive and regarded as a nice 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. Ironically, early Greeks and Romans believed it medicinal. (Oh boy, wouldn’t that be great.)
As recent as two hundred years ago, when sugar was a premium commodity, the average American consumed only about 5 pounds annually. These days, the average American consumes a staggering 150 to 170 pounds of sugar in one year, which plays out to 1/4 to 1/2 pound every day (picture 30 to 35 five-pound luggage). Yikes. Well, even if you don’t drink soft drinks or carbonated drinks, added sugar is lurking in so many foods where you might not realize. Sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup are found 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 per day (37.5 g or 9 tsp) for men; 100 calories per day (25 g or 6 teaspoons) for women.
So where is all this sugar invading our diets? Let us take a look:
Juice boxes for kids, even though 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 g sugar
Honey Smacks boxed cereal is 60% flat-out sugar (20 gram)
How about these drinks you believe are fitter: many popular fruit smoothies contain over 40 gram in the small size
Your favorite mixed drinks at Starbucks:
Tall Caramel Frappuccino (12 ounce) 46 g
Horchata Almond milk Frappuccino (16 ounce) 66 g
Average 12-ounce can of soda contains about 8 tsp of sugar. It only takes four 12-ounce cans of pop to equal 1/4 pound! For many people, drinking this amount of soda in 1 day is not a challenging task to accomplish. For many, it is a daily habit; other popular soft drinks average 13 gram to 16 g.
Among the most popular biscuits on your grocers’ shelf:
Chips Ahoy, just 3 biscuits delivers 33 g;
Twinkies (2 cakes) 33 g;
So let us move on to what may not be as obvious:
1 scoop of premium ice cream, up to 19 g (add 2 T chocolate syrup another 19 g)
2 Tablespoons of Honey Mustard Dressing contains 5 grams of sugar; the same serving of fat-free French contains 7 grams, (and few people use just 2 Tablespoons)
Average granola snack bar 24 gram
(author’s note: Lots of low or fat-free products contain extra sugar, and Remember that drinking orange juice or apple juice is still sugar)
Breakfast: orange juice, cereal, coffee (20 g, 12 gram) smoothie or 2 donuts on the run (40 g 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)
Dinner: frozen entree, salad with dressing, 4 cookies, iced tea with sugar (16 g, 20 g, 44 g, 4 g)
Total: 337 g which translates to a whopping 84 teaspoons of sugar for the day (and that is conservative). Yikes.
Regardless of 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 counting, it spells sugar and the human body does not differentiate. (Plus you need a degree in chemistry just to announce the names.)