Sugar Questions

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve been talking about sugar as one of the three things, in addition to meat and alcohol, to use less of in order to prevent breast cancer. Here are some answers to common questions relating to sugar.

Sugar and Breast Cancer

Because diets high in sugar are inflammatory and often lacking important cancer-fighting nutrients like fiber and antioxidants, a high sugar diet can increase your risk of breast cancer by 25%.  It’s also harder to control your weight when your diet is high in sugar, and adult weight gain is associated with incresed risk for breast cancer.

Sugar Goals

To prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases, including cancer, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to less than 6 teaspoons per day.  Added sugar refers to sugars and syrups that are used to sweeten foods, not the sugar that is naturally occurring in milk, plain yogurt and fruit.  All sugar, natural and added, is listed on the nutrition facts panel of foods in grams.  There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon.  Six teaspoons, or 24 grams, is the maximum amount of added sugar children and women should eat daily.  Men can have a little more, up to 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of added sugar.

That may seem like a lot.  24 grams sounds like a lot to me.  But it really isn’t all that much.  To give you some perspective consider these facts:

  • The average American eats 22 teaspoons or 88 grams of added sugar every day

    The 22 teaspoons sugar we eat daily versus the recommended 6 teaspoons sugar

  • A Coke that you pick up at the check-out counter has 16 teaspoons, 64 grams of sugar


  • This ridiculous flavored water drink claiming to be healthy has 5 teaspoons, 20 grams of sugar


It’s easy to over do sugar.  To keep your intake in check, look at the nutrition facts panel and count up your sugar grams.  Aim for less than 24 grams in a day.  Foods that have fruit and sugar in them are tricky and you’ve got to consult the ingredient list to get an idea for how much of the sugar is added or natural.  When sugar or syrup is one of the first few ingredients, the majority of the sugar listed in the nutrition facts panel is added, unhealthy, sugar.  Sugar can be “hidden” as ingredients like matose or sucrose; anything ending in -ose is a sugar.

Marketing Hype

Brain Tonic (above) is sweetened with agave nectar.  Doesn’t that make it better for you?  Nope. Sugar is sugar.  In fact, agave nectar is quite a bit higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup.  Agave is not a “healthier” sweetener; it’s simply a sweetener with lots of money going behind its marketing.

Fructose Confusion

Fructose is the chemical name for a type of sugar that is found in nearly all varieties of sugars such as, white sugar, brown sugar, honey, and syrups, such as brown rice syrup, agave syrup and high fructose corn syrup.  Fructose also occurs naturally in foods, particularly fruit.

There is a lot of research being done regarding fructose, and it seems that fructose has uniquely negative health effects compared to other types of sugars, such as glucose.  The take-home message from fructose research is: Eat less sugar overall. One food or type of sweetener is not better than another.

Artificial Sweeteners

Did you know that artificial sweeteners are 100’s, sometimes 1000’s, of times sweeter than sugar?  Because of their super-sweetness, foods and beverages sweetened artificially blast your taste buds with sweetness in a way that can lessen your appreciation for naturally sweet foods like oranges and tomatoes.  Skip artificial sweeteners to bring down the sweetness factor of your diet.  Over time, your desire for sweet tastes will be reduced.

Keep sugar on your radar, identify where it is in your diet and minimize hidden sugar.  That way you’ll have plenty of sugar left in your “sugar bank” to indulge in some tasty treats.

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.

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