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Published on November 30, 2021

Sugar in a Cup

Surprising Sugar Content in Your Favorite Drinks

The body needs lots of different nutrients to work its best, but added sugar isn’t one of them.

Carbohydrates in moderation, from whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruit are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fuel.

But when you take in a lot of empty carbs from added sugar, it’s linked to increased risk for many health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and inflammation. Beverages are easy to gulp down – and sadly, they pack a lot of added sugar.

“We have become so accustomed to drinking sugary beverages that we do not notice just how much we’re adding,” said Jennifer McKay, MD, internal medicine physician and hospitalist with Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health System.

She said frequent repetition of sugary drinks and insulin response can lead to type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (or 6 cubes) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (9 cubes) per day for men.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the biggest source of added sugar in the American diet. It is easy to see from these examples how quickly you can exceed those recommendations. If you stick to natural sources of sugar, such as fruit, you can get a lot more than sweetness, including important nutrients and fiber.

Sugars Infographic

Avera Heart Hospital Dietitian Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, offers these additional insights on what you’re drinking.

Gatorade®: Sports drinks can be a good choice for more-extreme athletic events like running a marathon, an all-day baseball tournament in 100-degree heat or a professional hockey game. For most of us, water is best. Sports drinks should only be used when trying to rehydrate after a bout of stomach flu.

Vitaminwater®: Our bodies excrete a majority of vitamins when we take them in excess. However, vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and they’re more difficult for the body to get rid of. Some Vitaminwater products contain fat-soluble vitamins, and if you consistently take more than 100% of the recommended daily amount, it can cause toxicity.

Snapple Peach Tea®: Freshly brewed or steeped teas without the added sugar can be extremely nutritious beverage options.

Kombucha: Gut health is linked to many medical conditions and widely discussed. Kombucha offers a source of healthy probiotics, especially if you don’t tolerate or care for yogurt. Because the active cultures need the sugar to stay alive, all kombucha will have some amount of added sugar.

Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, is a registered dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital. Get more insight on nutrition and health.

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