Sugar 101 – Natural Sugar vs Added Sugar

Often people are confused and have received conflicting advice on sugar. While there are adverse health effects to excessive sugar consumption, taking drastic measures such as completely removing sugar isn’t necessary either. It is all about moderation and portion size.

Let’s clarify any misconceptions you had about sugar and help you to make more educated choices moving forward.

Natural sugar vs added sugar – What’s the difference?

Added sugars – are sugars that are not naturally occurring in foods. The sugar is added when the food is processed or prepared. These products often contain little nutritional value. This doesn’t only include candy and desserts, other items that often contain added sugar include dressings, sauces, crackers, cereals, granola bars and sports drinks.

Natural sugars – are found in products such as fruits, dairy, beans, vegetables and whole grains. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and named this because of its chemical structure. For example, fruit contains the natural sugar fructose and dairy contains the natural sugar lactose. These foods also come with important nutrients, essential vitamins and minerals to support good health. Some examples: b12, calcium, fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C.

How much sugar is too much?

Below are the following recommendations from the USDA guidelines 2015-2020 on how much added sugar we should limit to each day.

<10% of total daily calories


Women <6 tsp sugar/day (25g)

Men <9 tsp sugar/day (36g)

Examples of added sugar:

Regular sized snickers bar contains 25g of added sugar.

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 2/3 cup serving contains 28g of added sugar.

The key is to focus on foods that contain naturally occurring sugars and enjoy food with added sugar in moderation.

By Allie Coulter, PRO Medical Registered Dietitian

PRO Medical’s Registered Dietitians provide personalized meal plans and education to support you in making realistic lifestyle changes and in achieving your individual goals. We have experts in a variety of areas and provide support for adults, pediatrics and families.

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