Friday, June 26, 2009

How Much Sugar in a 20-Ounce Coke? 16 Teaspoons!

My husband will often drink a Coke while he is driving a long distance; the caffeine and sugar give him a jolt that helps him stay alert. But when I had a look at the nutrition label of a 20-ounce bottle he was drinking recently and told him how much sugar was in it, he was shocked.

It's not that he had never looked at the label before. But the label lists the amount of sugar in grams, and how many people know how much sugar weighs a gram? We use teaspoons to measure sugar into our coffee and tea, and it's in terms of teaspoons that the amount of sugar has some meaning.

I had recently looked up this question and found the answer: 4.2 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon.

Which means, I told him, that a 20-ounce bottle of Coke has 67.5 grams of sugar, equal to SIXTEEN teaspoons or 1/4 cup!

My husband drinks his coffee black, so thinking about someone pouring 16 teaspoons of sugar into that bottle was a powerful image.

He has never been obese and drinks very little soda, but many experts say soft drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

It might be easier to convince people to cut back on soda pop if the nutrition labels on them (and on all other food as well) expressed the amount of sugar in terms people can understand--like teaspoons. Furthermore, as nutrition expert and author, Marion Nestle, points out, we also need to know how much of the sugar content of a food is there naturally--as in pure fruit juice--and how much was added by the food processor. She is hoping that the FDA under Obama will provide that information.

(By the way, many experts don't believe there's anything intrinsically more harmful about high fructose corn syrup than cane sugar. The problem is that government corn subsidies have made the syrup incredibly cheap, making it possible for manufacturers to super-size containers of soda and still keep the prices low enough to encourage consumption--which, by the way, is going down, despite their best efforts.)

Another peculiar aspect of sugar labeling is that there's no Recommended Daily Allowance. The amount of every other substance is given in grams or milligrams (for sodium) and then as a percentage of what the government believes is the desirable amount for an adult eating 2,000 calories a day.

But how much sugar should you eat? No guidance is given.

Absent that information, all you can do is first, look closely at the number of calories per serving, being careful to notice how many servings are in the package.

And, second, convert the grams of sugar into teaspoons that you can see with your mind's eye getting poured one after the other into your food: 4.2 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon.


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Anonymous said...

16 teaspoons is actually 1/3 of a cup.

a 16-ounce coke has 1/4 of a cup of sugar.

48 tsp = 1 cup
24 tsp = 1/2 cup
12 tsp = 1/4 cup

and so on...

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