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Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Sugar?

Some like it salty; some like it sweet. As a nation, however, people in the United States have shown time and again a craving for sweets -- especially desserts and soft drinks that have been sweetened with extra sugar. It's this "added sugar" that's being blamed for making the nation fat. In fact, the average consumption of sugary food and beverages has risen nearly 39 percent since the 1950's, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Today, the typical American's daily sugar load exceeds 22 teaspoons per day, with teens getting a whopping 34 teaspoons daily.

About a third of this consumption comes from sugary soft drinks. Another 19 percent comes from other sweetened beverages, like fruit drinks and chocolate milk, while 16 percent comes from candies and sweets, and 13 percent comes from sweetened grains, like breakfast cereal and bread. So just how sweet is our sweet tooth? Take this short quiz to find out how much you know about sugar.

1. How many calories are in a teaspoon of sugar?

a. 5

b. 9

c. 16

d. 25

2. Which of these items does not contain added sugar?

a. Chocolate chip cookie

b. Coconut cake

c. Fruit punch

d. Fresh-squeezed orange juice

3. How many teaspoons of added sugar are in a 20-ounce bottle of nondiet cola?

a. 5.2

b. 8.1

c. 15.6

d. 25

4. What amount of your daily calories do the U.S. Dietary Guidelines say should come from added sugars?

a. 8 percent

b. No more than 10 percent

c. 25 percent

d. None of the above

5. It's healthier to replace refined sugar with natural sugars like honey.

True

False

6. Which of the following is NOT a good strategy for cutting back sugar consumption?

a. Don't keep sugary foods in the house. If you get an uncontrollable craving, go out and buy one treat.

b. If you find yourself craving sugar because you're bored, get out of the house and go do something.

c. Replace your high-sugar snacks with healthy alternatives, like baby carrots or a handful of almonds.

d. Skip meals and attempt to forget about eating altogether.

Answers

1. How many calories are in a teaspoon of sugar?

The correct answer is: c. 16

Every teaspoon (4 grams) of refined sugar has 16 calories. It contains no fat, protein, or vitamins, which is why many nutrition experts refer to sugary foods as "empty calories."

2. Which of these items does not contain added sugar?

The correct answer is: d. Fresh-squeezed orange juice

Cookies, cakes, and even some fruit juices have added sugars. If you're not quite sure whether the product you're eating contains added sugars, check the nutrition label for any of the following: sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, honey and molasses. These are all different forms of sugar. If you want to be sure you're drinking juice without added sugar, you can always squeeze the juice yourself.

3. How many teaspoons of added sugar are in a 20-ounce bottle of nondiet cola?

The correct answer is: c. 15.6

In the 1950s, a bottle of Coca-Cola sold in only one size: 6.5-ounces. Today the standard 20-ounce bottle of root beer or cola has about 250 calories and more than 14 teaspoons (67 grams) of added sugar. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there's more sugar in one bottle of soda than you should consume in an entire day. For the same 250 calories, you could eat any of the following foods and get protein and nutrients at the same time: a broiled hamburger patty; a cup of low-fat cottage cheese with fruit; or a slice of veggie pizza and a salad.

4. What amount of your daily calories do researchers agree should come from added sugars?

The correct answer is: b. No More than 10 percent.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say added sugars should account for no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. If you have a 2,000 calorie daily diet, that's no more than 12 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons.

5. It's healthier to replace refined sugar with natural sugars like honey.

The correct answer is: False

According to the American Dietetic Association, all sugars -- including honey, molasses, brown sugar, and plain old white table sugar -- are pretty much the same. The advantage of the natural sugars found in fruits and fruit juices, however, is that they come hand-in-hand with fiber, essential vitamins, and nutrients that are missing in sodas, processed cookies, and pastries.

6. Which of the following is NOT a good strategy for cutting back sugar consumption?

The correct answer is: d. Skip meals and attempt to forget about eating altogether.

Skipping meals will likely send your blood sugar plummeting, robbing you of energy and making you cranky -- all of which will probably mean you're even more likely to reach for a chocolate pick-me-up. The best strategy for cutting back on sugar is to eat regular, healthful meals with plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains -- which will make you feel full. And if you do need to indulge, try a small, high-quality dessert and savor every bite. One Godiva dark chocolate per day is much better than a whole package of cheap cookies!

-- Paige Bierma is a health writer and videographer who won the 1998 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her expos on hazardous wilderness camps for delinquent teens. She lives in San Francisco.

References

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020

Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes for Macronutrients, Sept. 5, 2002. http://www.iom.edu/report.asp?id=4340

Dietary Guidelines. USDA.

Added-Sugar Intake On the Rise. USDA.

"What is Refined Sugar?" http://www.becomehealthynow.com/article/carbs/1082

Sweet Tips for Consumers. Center for Science in the Public Interest, http://www.cspinet.org/reports/sugar/sweettips.html

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Profiling Food Consumption in America. Agriculture Fact Book 2001-2002. http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.htm

World Health Organization. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. May 2004. http://www.who.int/gb/ebsha/pdf_files/WHA57/A57_R17_en.pdf

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