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 Sugar in food

Boletín de prensa  

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Sugar is a product that is obtained from foods such as sugar beet and sugar cane​

​What is sugar? 

It is a naturally occurring compound that is obtained from vegetables such as the sugar beet and sugar cane. 

What kind of sugar is in food? 

Food can contain different types of sugars either naturally occurring as that contained in​ honey and fresh fruit, or refined such as: brown sugar, corn sweeteners, corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose (dextrose), honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, refined sugar (sucrose) or maple syrup, among others. 

Refined sugar can be consumed in crystallized form as a sweetener in teas; as an ingredient in soft drinks, sports drinks, carbonated and soft drinks; ice cream, wine, spirits, confectionery and bakery, desserts, jams, tomato sauce, among many others. 

What is sugar in our food good for? 

Sugar is a source of energy that is easily and quickly assimilated, and required by the body mainly for the brain, the nervous system and the muscles. 

  • Glucose from sugar is the brain’s main food. 
  • The brain uses the nutrients provided in the intake, in the amount it needs; and among them, glucose is one of its favorite nutrients. 
  • Eating large amounts of sugar can be detrimental to overall health and affect brain performance.

Is excess sugar harmful? 

  • According to the World Health Organization, high consumption of the sugar that is added to foods and/or beverages contributes to increased circulating triglycerides, overweightness and obesity, in addition to promoting the formation of dental decay. 

  • Carbohydrates (sugars) can be converted into fat in the body and high intake leads to overweightness and obesity. 
  • Some sugars like fructose (used as a substitute for sugar or sucrose) can affect memory if consumed in excess.

What do nutritionists recommend? 

  • Added sugar should not exceed a range between 6% and 10% of total caloric intake (that is, if the individual’s daily caloric requirement is 2000 calories, where up to 200 calories can be provided by the added sugar in food). Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed in moderation and never between meals. 
  • Prefer the consumption of natural foods and try the original taste of foods without sweet additives. 
  • It is important not to add sugar to food for infants and children under two years old.
  • Avoid excessive daily consumption of such sugary foods. 

How much sugar should be consumed daily? 

  • Sugar consumption equivalent to 10% of total calories consumed is considered a recommended moderate intake. 
  • The equivalent of 11 teaspoons of sugar a day (57 grams of sugar) for adults and 30 g for children is considered moderate consumption, considering that this is the amount of added sugar and foods that naturally contain sugar. 

Is sugar fattening? 

  • Obesity results from an imbalance from total energy intake exceeding energy expenditure. 
  • Some “light” foods contain fructose and it has been noted that they can affect memory if consumed in excess. 

What is liquid sugar? 

  • Sugary sodas, which are primarily sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. 
  • When sugar is consumed in liquid form the body does not perceive satiety, which leads to excessive intake. 
  • Absorption of liquid sugar in the digestive tract is quick, which results in a sharp rise in circulating blood sugar (glucose peaks) and release of insulin, which eventually leads to insulin resistance and type II diabetes. 

What is “invisible” sugar? 

It is the sugar that is present in many foods we eat daily or frequently and of which we do not have a clear perception of the exact amount we consume and/or that we do not identify as a source of sugar. For example: 

A can of soda can contain the equivalent of 9.8 teaspoons of sugar (90% of the recommended daily intake of total sugar). 

In industrialized fruit juice, carbohydrate content may be equivalent to up to 12 teaspoons of sugar (110% of the recommended total daily intake). 

  • Each small cup of coffee in the office can add two teaspoons per cup to our daily sugar consumption. 
  • In a burger, almost all its ingredients contain invisible sugar: bread, ketchup, mustard and meat. 

Let’s avoid excesses 

  •  A diet based on low consumption of energy-dense foods and an active lifestyle are two major steps to combat chronic diseases. 
  • The amount of calories that individuals require must be proportional to their energy expenditure (which is spent in performing vital functions as well as by physical activity). 
  • Sugar consumption negatively affects protein consumption and reduces the supply of iron, zinc and thiamine to the body.

Prepared by

Office of Nutritional Health, Food and Beverage 

Ministry of Health and Social Protection

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