How Much Sugar is too Much?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate found naturally in many foods, including fruits and grains. If the only sugar we consumed were in natural, whole foods, we’d all be okay. Unfortunately, the average American diet is full of refined, nutrient-depleted foods and contains an average of 20 teaspoons of added, refined sugar every day. Refined sugar overworks the pancreas and adrenal glands to keep the blood sugar levels in balance. When you eat sugar, it is quickly absorbed into your blood stream in the form of glucose. This puts your pancreas into overdrive, making insulin (which carries glucose to your cells to be used for energy) to normalize blood sugar levels. But this rapid release of insulin causes a sudden drop in blood sugar. In reaction to the falling blood sugar, excess adrenal cortisone is stimulated to raise blood sugar back to normal. A constantly high intake of simple dietary sugar keeps this roller coaster going and eventually overworks or “burns out” normal pancreas and adrenal function leading to adult-onset diabetes, hypoglycemia, and chronic fatigue. I hear all the time from patients that they do not eat junk food. They wonder why they should be concerned about sugar consumption. Unless you’re eating a diet entirely made of whole, unprocessed foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and grains), you’re probably eating more sugar than you think. Usually, much  more. Sugar, in its many forms, is added to virtually every packaged food product you’ll find at the supermarket – not just the sweet stuff.  Don’t be fooled by the ingredients list. Sugar has hundreds of pseudonyms and manufacturers have gotten very good at hiding them from consumers. (See below for list.) Because ingredients are listed from most to least amount, often several different types of sugars will be in the middle of the list. If all sugars were required to be listed together, sugar would be the first ingredient. To find out how much sugar you’re actually taking in, check the labels of the foods you eat. Make sure you look at serving sizes and multiply appropriately. 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar for women a day and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar a day for men.Many people ask about “natural” sweeteners. Don’t be fooled, these “natural” sweeteners are only marginally better than plain white table sugar and dietary intake of them should be limited. I have enclosed below a list of names that sugar goes by on labels. Look for these names when looking at labels. Manufacturers try to be tricky. Do not be fooled. Take control of your weight and health!


Agave nectar
Barbados Sugar
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Blackstrap molasses
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane crystals
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn syrup
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup solids
Crystalline fructose
Date sugar
Demerara Sugar
Diastatic malt
Evaporated cane juice
Ethyl maltol
Florida Chrystals
Free Flowing
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Granulated sugar
Grape sugar
Grape juice concentrate
High-fructose corn Syrup
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Maple syrup
Muscovado sugar
Organic raw sugar
Powdered sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Rice Syrup
Sorghum syrup
Syrup Syrup
Table sugar
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Author: drjeffgreenberg

Dr Greenberg is a clinical cardiologist who specializes in preventive cardiology, nutrition, exercise, and longevity. He favors using natural methods to improving one's health.

2 thoughts on “How Much Sugar is too Much?”

  1. As I am a alcaholic in recovery, I reckognize a Sugar hangover. Dr Greenburg is telling the absolute truth. Sugar is now another addiction that got me good. My new goal towards SUGAR RECOVERY is fruit, fiber, dark green veggies, and lots of lean protein. The biggest hurdle for me to overcome is sugary treats after dark. Step 1, here I come.

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