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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

Sugar Is Us

The USDA published its first nutrition guidelines in 1894 as a farmer’s bulletin. It recommended consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods in proportion and moderation while lowering levels of fat, sugar, and starch intake.  (Wikipedia, 2015) Food Guides in the US 1894 -1920’s

A few of the United States’ earliest food guides, left to right: W. O. Atwater’s Food: Nutritive Value and Cost (1894), Caroline Hunt’s Food For Young Children (1916), Helen Atwater and Caroline Hunt’s How to Select Foods (1917) In 1894, people were mostly eating REAL FOOD – there were no fast food franchises, highly processed foods, energy bars, sugar-filled carbonated soft drinks, genetically modified foods, factory farmed animals pumped full of antibiotics and fed GMO grains.

In the late 1970’s, the USDA nutritional guidelines reflected the new “low fat revolution”, urging Americans to reduce their intake of saturated fats and cholesterol – that is, to eat fewer traditionally healthy foods like eggs, butter, meat, and full-fat dairy. We now know that advice was seriously misguided and has been driving some of the world’s leading health threats – including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.  (Gunnars, 2014) The food industry responded to the new low fat guidelines by creating a slew of low fat “health foods”. Unfortunately, removing the fat from food also takes away its taste. So the industry replaced the missing fat with sugar. If you eat processed or fast foods and/or drink sodas or juice drinks, you’re consuming massive amounts of sugar in various forms. Dr Stephan Guyenet, a neurobiologist and obesity researcher, says, “In the year 1822 we ate the equivalent of a 12 ounce can of soda every 5 days. Today, we’re eating the equivalent of a 12 ounce can of soda every 7 hours.”

Source: Stephan Guyenet, PhD

“On average, Americans are eating about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or 355 calories. This amounts to 70 pounds (32 kg) per year. Keep in mind that these are averages. Young males are eating about a 100 pounds of sugar per year… and many individuals are eating much, much more. (Gunnars, 2014) Most processed foods, including ones calling themselves “health foods” contain sugar – often lots of it under various names. Among the ones to look for are:

  • Barley malt

  • Beet sugar

  • Brown sugar

  • Buttered syrup

  • Cane juice

  • Cane juice crystals

  • Cane juice solids

  • Caramel

  • Carob syrup

  • Corn syrup

  • Corn syrup solids

  • Date sugar

  • Dehydrated cane juice

  • Dehydrated fruit juice

  • Dextran

  • Dextrin

  • Dextrose

  • Diatase

  • Diatastic malt

  • Ethyl maltol

  • Fructose

  • Fruit juice

  • Fruit juice concentrate

  • Fruit juice crystals

  • Galactose

  • Glucose

  • Glucose solids

  • Golden syrup

  • High fructose corn syrup

  • Invert sugar

  • Lactose

  • Malt syrup

  • Maltodextrin

  • Maltose

  • Maple syrup

  • Refiner’s syrup

  • Sucrose

  • Sugar

  • Sorghum syrup

  • Turbinado

  • Yellow sugar

–  Colquhoun& ten Bosch, undated Some others:


This useful infographic from Dr Robert Mercola’s Newsletter lists the amount of sugar per 100 grams found in some common foods. As Mercola points out, sugars now constitute the majority of calories in most people’s diet. (Mercola, 8/31/2015)

See my post on Katie Couric’s film ‘Fed Up’ for more information on the link between sugar consumption and the growing obesity epidemic.

I highly recommend watching the film. Here’s Fed Up‘s home page. Note added on 9/1/2015:


A comment from Na’ama Yehuda (see Comments, below) reminded me to stress that not all sugars are equal. The sugars that occur naturally in fruit and dried fruit are a lot healthier for us than any form of refined sugar. As Na’ama says, concentrate on eating REAL FOOD, avoid processed junk foods filled with refined sugars and other unhealthy ingredients, and limit your total consumption of sugar.


REFERENCES Colquhoun, J. & ten Bosch, L. (undated). HOW TO SPOT SUGAR ON FOOD LABELS. Hungry For Change: Your health is in your hands. See: (2014). Fed Up – the movie. See: Gunnars, C. (2014). Added Sugar is The Single Worst Ingredient in The Diet. Period. See: Guyenet, S. (2012). By 2606, the US Diet will be 100 Percent Sugar. Whole Health Source – Nutrition and Health Science. See: Hardin, J.R. (2014). ‘Fed Up’. See: Mercola, R. (8/31/2015). Sugar in Foods (A Sweet Trap) Infographic. See: Wikipedia. (2015). History of USDA nutrition guides. See: © Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021

And yet … not all sugar is created equal (no pun to the artificial sweetener, which is equal to no health benefit whatsoever)–to count the sugar that is naturally in fruit (e.g. apples) at the same breath of the sugar in high fructose corn syrup, is to me to miss the point. Sugar in

its natural state has been part of the human (and animal life) diet for thousands of years. Unless one laments any of humanity’s achievements in food growing, harvesting, and preserving (i.e. those who pine for the ‘caveman’s diet even though cavemen’s life expectancy was about 35 years … and not just because of becoming the lion’s lunch)–there is much to say to the benefit of natural sugar in foods both fresh and preserved.

People have been eating fruit ever since people existed. They have been preserving seasonal foods by drying (i.e. more sugar per piece) and making jams, juices, jelly and fermented drinks for thousands of years. Honey, maple, agave, and molasses have been part of humanity’s diet for just as long.

Can we truly say that those sugars are ‘bad for you’ and that one should say them in the same breath of highly processed, low in nutrients sweeteners? Even if the key is to limit the consumption of sugar, raising awareness to what sugar is and where it hides is not the same as lumping all sugars together (e.g. listing the sugar content of apples and dates as if it is somehow ‘a shocking sugar trap’ or worse than frozen yogurt (which is listed as having less sugars and supposedly therefore ‘better’ than the natural foods!). Should people eat less junk sugar? Yep. People should eat less junk food and less processed food and more REAL food (including fruit and dried fruit and honey and molasses and maple and agave–all which are listed as supposedly ‘shocking’ or ‘sugar traps’ as if they are a can of soda). The consumption of REAL food is the key, not the particular ingredient in it, IMO.

Sort of like claiming that starch is ‘bad’ when carbohydrates are the fuel of the brain (sugar, too, by the way), rather than looking at the source and kind of carbs one eats and aiming for less processed, whole grains and vegetables, rather than ‘refined’ (read: naked of nutrients)


It is not the carbs, or the fat, or the sugar that is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but the foods–whole real foods are healthier than processed fake foods. Should people really eat less fruit or root vegetables or dried fruits and ‘replace’ them with less sugary but less nutritious things

like frozen yogurt or baked goods? Nope. Not in my view or the view of nutritionists I trust.

Too much sugar, like too much salt or fat or one kind of food is not healthy. We need variety, but we most certainly need natural foods. Fruit and dried fruit and honey and maple and molasses and sweet potato and yam and beets and carrots and bananas and berries included. Sugar and all.

My view.




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