How Much Sugar Is in a Can of Soda?

Soda

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

It's no secret that soft drinks are brimming with sugar. Nor is it news that soda, as well as other sweetened beverages such as fruit juices, bottled iced teas, and energy and sports drinks, are suspected to play a role in the increased risks of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer that are associated with a high intake of sugar.

If you're a regular imbiber of sweetened beverages, you aren't alone. For example, according to a 2016 report issued by Beverage Digest, the total sales of carbonated soft drinks reached $81 billion in sales in North America. That's $58 billion more than water sales and $71.6 billion more than total sports drink sales.

If you suspect you may be downing more sugar than is healthy (or that your soda-sipping kids are), read on to learn how much sugar (including other common sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup) is too much, the amount of sugar in popular beverages, and ways to tame a sweet tooth in order to kick a sweet-drink habit.

How Much Sugar Is Healthy?

The short answer: none. There's no recommended daily allowance for sugar because it offers no nutritional benefits whatsoever. The only thing added sugar and other sweeteners bring to the table are calories. So rather than advise people to get a certain amount of sugar in the diet, groups concerned with nutritional health all suggest specific limits to the amount of added sugar people eat or drink each day.

There's no amount of added sugar that's considered "healthy."

For example, the American Heart Association (AHA), recommend that women take in no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day (25 grams or 100 calories) and that men get no more than nine teaspoons of sugar per day (38 grams or 150 calories). The AHA also says kids ages 2 to 18 should have less than six teaspoons per day. Note that these recommendations do not apply to sugars that naturally occur in foods, including the fructose in fruits.

Sugar in Common Beverages

Keeping in mind that depending on your age and gender you should try to limit your intake of added sugar from all sources, not just soda and other sweetened beverages, you may be shocked to learn just how much sugar and how many calories are in a single sweetened drink. Here are some examples of the approximate amount of sugar in a 12-ounce serving of several popular beverages.

Drink Sugar Calories
Cola 42 grams 150
Orange soda 46 grams 170
Sparkling juice (lemon-lime) 28 grams 120
Sports drink 21 grams 90
Sweetened bottled iced tea 35 grams 125
Vitamin-infused water  20 grams 75
Sweetened cranberry juice cocktail 48 grams 200
Caffeinated energy drink 40 grams 165
Apple juice  39 grams 170
Coconut water 15 grams 60 

It's also important to note that most of the calories in these beverages are "empty," meaning they have little to no nutritional value. Even the potential benefits of certain drinks—such as the vitamins in fruit juice or the urinary tract health boost provided by cranberry juice—are minimized by their excessively high sugar content.

How to Decrease Soda Intake

Drinking an occasional soda probably won't hurt you so long as you keep your daily intake in check. If you have an insatiable appetite for soda and other sweet drinks that you'd like to overcome, here are some tips from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics you might try.

Taper Off

If you or your child are downing super-size servings of soda or other sugary beverages each day, it will be tough to go cold turkey. Your goal is to cut back to no more than 8 to 12 ounces, or none at all, per day. To get there, note how many ounces you typically drink in a day and then come up with a reasonable plan to decrease that amount by 2 or 3 ounces every few days until you reach the goal.

Order a Fountain Drink With Ice

You'll dramatically decrease the amount of sugar this way. In the case of soda, for example:

  • 12-ounce cup (child-size): 23 grams of sugar and 95 calories
  • 16-ounce cup (small): 31 grams of sugar and 128 calories
  • 21-ounce cup (medium): 44 grams of sugar and 180 calories
  • 32-ounce cup (large): 65 grams of sugar and 267 calories

Switch to Diet Drinks

These typically are sweetened with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, that have zero calories but are made from chemicals that have no nutritional value. What's more, many artificial sweeteners have a high glycemic index which means they cause blood glucose levels to rise after being consumed. They aren't safe for people who have diabetes.

What's more, while diet beverages don't add extra calories to a person's daily intake, and so they can be useful for weight loss, research has found that people who have a diet soda every day are at an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes. So although downing the occasional soda or other beverage sweetened with fake sugar is fine for satisfying an occasional craving, it isn't a healthy option overall.

Diet sodas are a better option than regular sodas, but with meals, it's best to drink water or low-fat or skim milk. And when it comes to quenching your thirst between meals? Plain old water is the best way to go.

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Article Sources

  1. Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després J-P, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk. Circulation. 2010;121(11):1356-1364. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.876185

  2. Vos MB, Kaar JL, Welsh JA, et al. Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135(19):e1017-e1034. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000439

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