I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!
Most people are aware that over-consuming of any one food can have negative health consequences. Health professionals recommend eating a wide variety of foods and drinks in moderation.
This is especially true with sugar. While people need to carefully monitor their sugar intake, all of us should be careful to only have sugar in small amounts, preferably with meals.
These days, the sugar content in foods and beverages has gotten out of control. As an oral health professional, I see the negative effects of this all the time, and the health issues from eating too much sugar extend way beyond dental problems.
There are many ways to reduce your risk of developing dental problems associated with sugar, and I will share those later. First, here are some surprising facts about the sugar content in popular, and supposedly healthy, foods.
Sugar Content in Fruit
If I had to pick one food category that's promoted as a health food, I would instantly think of fruit. It's often pushed as the "healthy alternative" to sugary and high-fat snacks.
The truth of the matter, however, is that it's only healthy in moderation, like everything else!
Fruits contain essential vitamins that, in all honesty, are some of the easiest to acquire. Want your Vitamin C for the day? Eat an entire serving of fruit and you'll likely get enough to meet your body's needs.
1 Sugar Cube = 4.2 g of Sugar
Fruit is sugary. Yes, they're "natural" sugars, but what does that actually mean? Well, it means they're naturally full of sugar and it hasn't been added. Is that beneficial? Eating anything in its natural form is preferable and more healthy than something that's been produced or introduced in a factory. That said, be aware that though fruits are good in moderation, they contain a lot of sugar.
How much? Here are some visual representations.
Sugar = 18 g, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 3 mg, Protein = 1.7 g, Vitamin C = 23 mg, Vitamin A = 1,593 IU
One bunch, or 126 g, of grapes. Sugar = 21 g, Fat = 0.24 g, Sodium = 4 mg, Protein = 1 g, Vitamin C = 27%, Vitamin A = 2%
One large orange, or 270 g of orange fruit. Sugar = 23 g, Fat = 0.24 g, Sodium = 2 mg, Protein = 1.5 g, Vitamin C = 160%, Vitamin A = 8%
Sugar Content in Snack Foods
Nobody will make the claim that Snickers bars and chocolate chip cookies are "good" for you, but gosh are they delicious!
Again, the key here is moderation. A Snickers bar every day is a bit excessive; a Snickers bar a few times a day is going to do some damage to the pancreas, the gland that produces insulin. If the pancreas cannot keep up with demand, in simple terms, it can lead to an unhealthy situation and eventually to diabetes.
Even oral health professionals eat sugar, but I ask you to keep some of the following images in mind when you're choosing foods. Hopefully these images will help you to moderate your sugary snack food consumption to a reasonable level.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 cookies (34 g). Sugar = 11 g, Calories = 160, Fat = 8 g, Sodium = 105 mg, Protein = 2 g, Iron = 4%
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Peanut Butter Serving size = 2 Tbsp. (32 g). Sugar = 3 g, Calories = 190, Fat = 16 g, Sodium = 147 mg, Protein = 8 g.
Jelly/Jam Serving size = 2 Tbsp. (20 g). Sugar = 13 g, Calories = 100, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 12 mg, Protein = 0 g
1 regular bar (57 g). Sugar = 28 g, Calories = 266, Fat = 11 g, Sodium = 130 mg, Protein = 5 g
1 king size bar (113 g). Sugar = 56 g, Calories = 528, Fat = 22 g, Sodium = 258 mg, Protein = 10 g
Sugar Content in Beverages
Most of us enjoy drinking soda pop or fruit juices once in a while. That's okay! As with anything, moderation is the key, and consuming a wide range of foods and drinks is beneficial.
Today, sugary drinks are often consumed multiple times per day, potentially leading to mood swing disorders, hyperactivity in children and young adults, rampant cavities, and weight gain.
Remember to swish with water after drinking any drinks other than water! This can save your teeth from the constant assault. Also, try to drink sugary drinks all at once, as quickly as possible. Each sip starts an acid attack on your teeth that lasts about 20 minutes!
Sugar + Bacteria + Acid + Time = Tooth Decay
1 can (255 g). Sugar = 26 g, Calories = 115, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 214 mg, Protein = 1 g, Calcium = 3%
12 oz. bottle. Sugar = 29 g, Calories = 143, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 6 mg, Protein = 2 g, Vitamin C = 160%
Medium (21 oz). Sugar = 112 g, Calories = 771, Fat = 21 g, Sodium = 336 mg, Protein = 17 g, Calcium = 58%
Serving size = 20 oz. Sugar = 77 g, Calories = 282, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 118 mg, Protein = 0 g
Serving size = 1 L. Sugar = 123 g, Calories = 451, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 189 mg, Protein = 0 g
Serving size = 12 oz. Sugar = 39 g, Calories = 140, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 45 mg, Protein = 0 g
Serving size = 20 oz. Sugar = 65 g, Calories = 240, Fat = 0 g, Sodium = 75 mg, Protein = 0 g
How to Protect Your Teeth
- Decrease your sugar consumption.
- Brush at least twice daily with a fluoride or xylitol toothpaste.
- Floss once daily using the correct methods.
- Swish with water after snacks, meals, and sugary drinks.
- Use a straw, which will help the sugar bypass your teeth.
- Chew sugar-free gum after snacks, meals, and drinks.
- Limit sticky snacks like caramel, raisins, and dried fruits.
- Consume sugary foods and beverages all at once rather than over long periods of time; each instance of sugar intake starts a new acid attack on your teeth that lasts 20-40 minutes.
- Visit your dental hygienist and dentist regularly.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 Kate P
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on February 07, 2015:
Hi May, thanks for a thought-provoking question! I guess my point is that fruits are pushed as completely healthy, and the sugar aspect is not really in the equation. As a dental hygienist by profession, I have seen the detrimental side effects of this hundreds of times. Eating fruits is definitely better than processed junk, but most people don't realize that they're chock full of fructose, or fruit sugars. I guess my message is to minimize consumption of fruits just as you'd minimize consumption of other sources of sugar. Natural is always better, but that doesn't make it "good." I hope that helps..
may on February 06, 2015:
So, what you're saying is that eating fruits is just as bad as eating all the bad sugar junk???? This is why people such as myself are confused because one will say natural sugars are good because we can digest them while someone like you will say any form of sugar is bad even if it's a fruit! So which is it????
Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on September 26, 2014:
So good to see. I find that many people are not aware of the amount of sugar in fruit juice and think it is OK to consume in huge quantities.
Rozalyn Winters on June 11, 2014:
I'm a huge natural health buff, and I always learn something new with your hubs. Great job!
Norah Chandler on May 28, 2014:
It was really interesting to see a physical representation of how much sugar is in certain foods and beverages. Sugar is particularly harmful to teeth, so it is good to keep those amount s in mind. It looks like even simple fruit has quite a bit of sugar, albeit much less than processed sugary treats.
Norah Chandler http://www.beaumarisdentalclinic.com.au
healthygurl from Canada on August 19, 2013:
Love everything about this article, especially the pictures!
Rev Bruce S Noll HMN from Asheville NC on July 22, 2012:
I am grateful for your article. It serves as my reminder of how silly I am when it comes to eating certain foods, especially those with high sugar content. I have suffered some of the consequences of poor oral hygiene as a youngster and though I have learned my lessons in some areas, a sugar addiction is hard to break, especially when manufacturers load it up in all of our foods.
Though you stress moderation, googling the impact of sugar on the immune system will help people understand the importance of cutting way down. It isn't about being fat, it's about being healthy and the combination of obesity and immune deficiency is deadly.
Well done! I enjoyed the photo's. They're worth a thousand words.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on June 20, 2012:
Actually Tony, your teeth don't care what type of fermentable sugars you consume; all of them lead to tooth decay. In addition, carbs are carbs, and as many people know, over-eating of carbohydrates converts directly into fat. If you eat minimal amounts of sugar, your body will burn it off. If you over-consume it, your body will store it for future energy needs--as fat.
Thanks for the great comments!
Tony on June 20, 2012:
Nice, BUT... I don't think natural sugars in fruit can be compared in this way to the "sugars" and sweeteners in things such as cola, candy, etc. On Weight Watchers an unlimited amount of most fruits can be eaten. Weight Watchers is widely regarded as one of, if not the, best weight lose programs.
RTalloni on May 02, 2012:
We had a great pediatrician with a similar visual aid for sugar consumption that was very helpful. Good stuff here!
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on January 07, 2012:
Yup, unfortunately juice is full of sugar; it's not something that is widely known, but it sure is helpful to know when trying to lose weight!
Thank you everyone for your awesome comments! :)
Derdriu on December 17, 2011:
Faceless39, What a clear, interesting, useful summary of sugar intake in its different amounts and forms! In particular, you make it easy for readers to compare how much of what to take because of your comparison lists of calories and nutrient (or non-nutient!) information alongside each symbolic photo.
Thank you for sharing, etc.,
Carlon Michelle from USA on November 29, 2011:
No wonder I have a hard time loosing weight. 100% Juice is full of sugar. Maybe less then soda but still too much to count on loosing weight with. Thanks for the info. Smile!
Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on November 29, 2011:
People don't realize how much sugar they are consuming. We are sugar addicts! Thanks for breaking this all down and reminding us about moderation and to be mindful of what we are eating.
ChuckG on November 28, 2011:
I don't think it's fully ingrained within us how addictive sugar can be to someone who over indulges. I brush my teeth after I eat anything. I just need to floss more. Thanks for the hub.
Deborah Neyens from Iowa on November 27, 2011:
This is great. I've shared it.
Kris Heeter from Indiana on November 21, 2011:
Great way to show the sugar content. I'll be sharing this hub with a few of my clients!
Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on November 20, 2011:
Great visual examples to help all of us realize what we are actually eating and drinking and how it might impact us. Good work.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on November 20, 2011:
Awesome,thanks for the constructive feedback you guys!
(PS: I use xylitol in my coffee! Article on that up at the top. It's actually GOOD for your teeth, natural, and sweeter than sugar so you need less.) :)
You know, I'd thought about the gram vs. ounce thing and came to the conclusion that it would create lots of numbers like 28g = 0.987 ounces. We're dealing with really small numbers of ounces here. So I guess if you picture a sugar cube as being 4.2 grams, it'll hopefully help with the visualization. Thanks for the comment on that! :)
Lateral3 on November 20, 2011:
This is a good one Faceless39. A Visual representation of the sugar content really brings it home. At the risk of bringing wrath down upon my head though I would say that the visual works for me because I don't relate to grams when it comes to the nutritional values on foodstuffs these days. For instance; the 20oz bottle of coke with 2.3 oz of sugar makes more sense to me than 65g and I probably wouldn't need the visual aid.
I suspect this may be true for older people and political dissidents who scan down the list of contents and say "the hell with it" and throw it in their basket anyway.
jfay2011 on November 20, 2011:
very interesting hub. I am terrible about sugar in my coffee
Mo Cee on November 19, 2011:
In addition to adverse effects on our teeth, sugar also affects our skin. Good article, ey!
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on November 19, 2011:
Thanks a lot for your positive feedback, you guys! It's always appreciated. :)
And I'll be honest; I have no idea what this hub has to do with ego, but hey, as long as you got something out of it I don't care! Lol.
Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on November 19, 2011:
You have just written a great hub to support ego.
Kristin Trapp from Illinois on November 19, 2011:
A picture certainly is worth a thousand words in this case. What a great representation of how much sugar is in popular foods and drinks. I know I will now try to draw a mental image of the sugar cubes each time I eat something "junky" without giving it much thought. ~voted up, useful and very interesting~
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 19, 2011:
Very well done! Using the sugar cubes next to the food choices makes a very strong "statement". I also liked the suggestions for good oral care.
voted up, useful and interesting.