How Much Sugar Is in a Can of Soda?

Even some healthy drinks packed with hidden sugar

cola can pouring in a glass
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Regular sodas and soft drinks are packed full of calories and loaded with sugary sweeteners. And it doesn't matter if they are made with sucrose (white sugar) or high-fructose corn syrup; in the end, it's all sugar, and we consume way too much.

But how much is too much? Are we stressing over nothing, or are there serious health concerns linked to our favorites drinks and sodas?

Counting the Tablespoons Per Serving

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, a 12-ounce can of cola has 33 grams of sugar and about 136 calories. Whether you pick a Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or any other soft drink, It's all pretty much the same. In the end, drinking one tasty soda is equivalent to eating eight teaspoons of granulated white sugar.

Think about it: eight teaspoons of sugar in a single serving. If you then decide to buy 16-ounce soda, you are faced with no less 44 grams of sugar or roughly 11 teaspoons. That's just shy of a quarter cup of white sugar, something you would never dream of downing in one go.

By contrast, a 12-ounce fountain soda contains far less sugar than a 12-ounce can simply by virtue of the added ice. Here is more or less what you will be looking at the next time you buy a Big Gulp at your local soda fountain:

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

Hidden Sugar in Popular Brands

No matter what people might tell you, the calories and sugar count are going to be similar irrespective of the type of sweetened drink you pick (with the exception of diet sodas, and that's an entirely different issue). Take a look at the following examples:

  • Gatorade (16-ounce): 28 grams sugar and 100 calories
  • Arizona Iced Tea (16-ounce): 56 grams sugar and 180 calories
  • Vitaminwater (20-ounce): 32 grams sugar and 120 calories
  • Oceanspray Cranberry Cocktail (12-ounce): 90 grams sugar and 180 calories
  • Starbuck's Vanilla Frappuccino (13.7-ounce): 46 grams sugar and 290 calories

One of the better options is Vita Coco coconut water which comes in at just 14 grams of sugars and 68 calories for a 16-ounce serving (if you can consider 3.5 teaspoons of sugar "better").

Beyond the simple matter of sugar and calories, the bigger problem may be that these drinks have nominal to no nutritional value. While some might suggest that Oceanspray cranberry juice, for example, is good for the urinary tract health, those benefits are largely minimized by the excessively high sugar content.

A Word From Verywell

The bottom line is this: overeating sugar is linked an increased risk of many serious diseases, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Drinking an occasional soda probably won't hurt you so long as you keep your daily intake in check.

On the other hand, why not explore healthy drink alternatives that are only not only better for you but may end up saving a lot of money?

View Article Sources
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28: Basic Report: 14148: Beverages, carbonated, cola, regular." Washington, D.C.; updated May 2016.