All it takes is a short walk down the grocery store aisle to realize that sugar is everywhere! From obvious foods like soft drinks and cookies to more sneaky items like pasta sauce and peanut butter, you'd be amazed by how many things contained added or refined sugars.
Monitoring your intake of this omnipresent ingredient is the key to controlling the number of carbohydrates — there's 13 grams in one tablespoon of sugar —and calories you eat on a daily basis.
Each tablespoon of granulated sugar contains 49 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates.
Calories and Carbs in Sugar
In just one tablespoon of granulated sugar, there are 49 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates, according to the USDA. This works out to about 4 calories per gram of sugar listed on a food's nutrition label.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your refined sugar intake to 36 grams or 150 calories for males and 25 grams or 100 calories for females. These guidelines would obviously change for individuals on low-carb or keto-style diets and for people with diabetes who are monitoring their blood sugar levels.
Difference Between Carbohydrates and Sugar
While they're commonly used interchangeably, sugars and carbs are not quite the same, according to kidshealth.org. Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy and make up an important part of a well-balanced diet. There are three types of carbs: sugar, starch and fiber. The sugar group itself can be further broken down into simple and complex varieties.
Simple sugars come from healthier foods like fruits and from less nutritional items like candy or juice. This type of carb is quickly broken down by the body, causing your blood sugars to rapidly rise after you eat. Complex sugars, which are found in foods like whole grain bread and brown rice, are digested more slowly and lead to smaller spikes in your blood sugar levels.
How Many and What Kind
In general, 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, according to Mayo Clinic. The majority of these carbs should come from natural sources like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, milk and nuts. Avoid processed or refined foods with added sugar, including items like fruit juice, sports drinks, granola, canned fruits and many kinds of breakfast cereal.
While some claim that raw or brown sugar is healthier than white sugar, this claim is largely false. While these sugars contain molasses and thus have small amounts of nutrients like calcium, magnesium and iron, they're still almost equivalent to white sugar nutritionally. Because of this, each type should be consumed sparingly in accordance with the guidelines outlined above.
Which Sugar Substitute Is Best?
Artificial sweeteners, which add sweetness to food without increasing the overall calorie content, have become more commonplace lately. These sweeteners can be marketed under a variety of brand names and usually contain the ingredients stevia, sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame or neotame.
While they can be useful for people watching their weight or for individuals with diabetes, they're not a cure-all. By and large, foods containing these substitutes are usually not as nutritious as foods containing more naturally occurring sugars.
In addition, there's some evidence that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners can be addictive and that their extreme sweetness may cause you to actually lose your taste for less sweet, more naturally occurring sugars, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Some sugar substitutes may also lead to gastrointestinal issues if consumed in larger quantities, according to Mayo Clinic. If you have questions about incorporating these ingredients into a well-rounded diet, be sure to speak to your doctor or to a registered dietician.
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- Kid's Health: "Carbohydrates and Sugar"
- Mayo Clinic: "Carbohydrates: How Carbs Fit Into a Healthy Diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes"
- Harvard Medical School: "Artificial Sweeteners: Sugar-Free, But at What Cost?"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Sugars, Granulated"