How Much Sugar Is in a Can of Soda?

Soda

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Added sugars are found in common beverages like soda that lack nutritional value. When consumed in excess, added sugars can contribute to weight gain and lead to chronic disease. A 12-ounce can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar (about 10 teaspoons), which is more than 80% of the recommended daily intake for a healthy diet.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that the average American consumes roughly 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day, a substantial amount of which comes from soda consumption. While the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits provide valuable carbohydrates, added sugars like those found in soda, fruit juices, bottled iced teas, and energy and sports drinks have been linked to a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Learn more about how much sugar is in soda and other popular drinks, the health risks associated with consuming too much, plus tips to cut back on your intake.

Sugar in Soda and Other Drinks

The amount of added sugar you can safely consume varies based on your biological sex, age, and weight. Added sugar is often hiding in single servings of sodas and other sweetened drinks, meeting and sometimes exceeding the recommended daily intake for Americans.

Most of the calories in these beverages are "empty," meaning they provide little to no nutritional value. Even the potential benefits of certain drinks—such as the vitamins in fruit juice or the urinary tract health benefits of cranberry juice—are minimized by their excessively high sugar content.

The table below illustrates how much sugar is found in a 12-ounce serving of common beverages, which may be smaller than many people consume.

Drink Grams Teaspoons Calories
Coca-Cola 39 grams 10 teaspoons 140
Orange soda 49 grams 12 teaspoons 199
Sparkling juice (citrus) 23 grams 6 teaspoons 115
Sports drink 20 grams 5 teaspoons 97
Sweetened bottled iced tea 31 grams 8 teaspoons 119
Vitamin-infused water  20 grams 5 teaspoons 79
Sweetened cranberry juice cocktail 45 grams 11 teaspoons 205
Energy drink 38 grams 10 teaspoons 160
Apple juice  38 grams 10 teaspoons 159
Coconut water 21 grams 5 teaspoons 99

Recommended Sugar Intake

Sugar is a nuanced ingredient and not all types of sugar are inherently unhealthy. There are two different types of sugar:

  • Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods like fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).
  • Added sugars are sugars or sweeteners that are added to foods and beverages during processing, or while you're preparing them such as adding sugar to your coffee.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that naturally occurring sugars like fructose and glucose found in fruit, dairy, and certain vegetables offer beneficial, energy-boosting carbohydrates. When incorporated into a healthy diet, these sugars can also add texture to food, balance acidity with sweetness, and of course, satisfy your sweet tooth.

However, the organization adds that the body interprets naturally occurring sugars and added sugars as the same, which can cause weight gain. Most added sugars and nonnutritive sugars, or "high-intensity sweeteners" contain no nutritional benefits and pose a number of health risks. Added sugars are associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day (approx. 25 grams or 100 calories) and that men get no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day (approx. 38 grams or 150 calories). The AHA also advises that children ages 2–18 should have less than 6 teaspoons per day.

Both the DHHS and the 2020–2025 U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming no more than 10% of daily calories of added sugars, which actually exceed the AHA's advice. For context, a healthy diet consisting of 2,000 calories a day for weight management would allow up to 200 calories of added sugars per day, according to current USDA guidelines. Some health experts have cautioned that 10% of daily calories from added sugar is too much to be considered healthy.

These recommendations don't apply to sugars that naturally occur in foods, including fructose in fruits. Added sugars come in many different forms, so it's important to know how to identify them. From high-fructose corn syrup to dextrose, fructose, and sucrose, be sure to read the Nutrition Facts labels carefully and look for the names of hidden added sugars.

There are 4 calories in 1 gram of sugar. 200 calories from added sugar on a 2,000 calorie diet would equal about 50 grams (12 teaspoons) of added sugars per day.

Artificial Sweeteners

Diet soft drinks usually contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and contain zero calories. However, diet sodas are made from chemicals that have no nutritional value. While the zero-calorie characteristic of diet beverages makes them an appealing choice for weight loss, some research suggests that having a diet soda every day is still associated with an increased risk for developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Diet sodas are a lower-calorie option than regular sodas, but drinking diet soda in excess is not a healthy option either. Like all sodas, they should only be consumed in moderation.

How to Cut Back on Soda

Drinking the occasional sugary soda won't likely pose a major problem to your health so long as you're maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. But if you're frequently opting for soda or other sugar-loaded drinks, the effects can be serious.

For instance, a 2019 study found a link between soft drinks containing both sugar and artificial sweeteners and higher mortality rates. If you want to curb your soda habit and stay healthy, try the following tips.

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How to Cut Soda and Cut Calories

Order a Fountain Drink With Ice

By filling your glass with ice, you'll pour less soda into your glass and therefore, consume less sugar per serving overall. The key will be to save the rest of that can or bottle for another day.

Switch to Diet and then Taper Off

If you've been drinking supersize servings of soda or other sugary beverages on a regular basis, it might be difficult to give it up cold turkey. Ideally, you'll want to cut back to no more than 8 to 12 ounces per day, and eventually, none at all. 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 your goal.

Hydrate with Low-Sugar Sports Drinks

Look for sports drinks that contain little to no added sugars. If it's the electrolytes you're after, opt for brands of bottled unflavored water that are infused with electrolytes, which are likely to be free of sugar. Just remember to read the nutrition labels carefully.

Choose 100% Real Juice

Juices are naturally sweet on their own without the added sugars. It may take your palate some getting used to, but choosing 100% real fruit and vegetable juices that are free of additives is a much healthier option. You simply won't get the nutrition benefits from a juice that's loaded with sugar.

Drink More Water

Of course, plain water is the best choice for a beverage. Drinking enough water not only helps you stay hydrated but keeps your body functioning optimally, too. And if you're trying to lose weight, drinking plenty of water is an excellent part of a weight loss plan.

Try Flavored (or Plain) Sparkling Water

If you love carbonation and want to keep some bubbles in your life, flavored sparkling waters are a great choice. Again, read the nutrition labels closely to make sure you're not swapping out one sugary beverage for another. Better yet, go for plain sparkling water and add your own fruits and natural juices at home.

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Article Sources
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