Whether you're a real sweet-tooth or someone who loves savoury foods, it can be hard to know just how much sugar you are eating and how many calories are in all that sugar. Sugar is everywhere, from cupcakes to tomato sauce and from fruit smoothies to wine, so it can be hard to go a day without consuming any type of sugar.
So what is sugar, how many calories are in sugar, and what do those empty sugar calories do to your body? In this complete guide on sugar and sugar calories, I'll be covering everything you need to know about the different types of sugar, how calories work, and how to cut down on your overall intake.
What exactly is sugar?
The term sugar is relatively broad and covers quite a few different substances. Generally speaking, sugar is a sweet carbohydrate found in powder form, which you know as the ingredient you use to bake cakes, or put in your coffee. But sugar is actually made up of two chemicals called fructose and sucrose, and can actually come in way more forms that just the powdered form we all know, in fact honey, maple syrup, agave are all ‘types’ of sugar which break down to exactly the same thing once you eat them - fructose and glucose.
Many people wrongly believe that there are ‘healthy sugars’ such as brown sugar, raw cane sugar, or any of the syrups I’ve just mentioned, but aside from the tiny differences in micro nutrients, they are all as bad for you if you’re eating too much!
Walking along the sugar aisle of the grocery stores, you've probably noticed just how many different types of sugar are available. From white sugar to icing sugar, brown or raw sugar and even coconut sugar, these ingredients all have a slightly different profile. Then you have all of your honey and syrups too. In fact there are over 60 different types of sugar, so don't be fooled by all the names, as far as your body is concerned they are all the same once you eat them.
How many calories does sugar contain?
White table sugar contains around 387 calories per 100 grams, or around 770 calories per cup. This makes it one of those "calorie-dense" foods that bring your body a lot of energy, even when consumed in small quantities. However, whenever we eat large quantities of high sugar foods which might provide all that energy, you will be creating an unhealthy spike in your blood sugar levels which will result in a corresponding sugar slump or crash - more of this a little later...
Different types of sugar may vary in the amount of calories that they give you, but they all remain "calorie dense". Here is how they compare:
Sugar 387 Calories per 100g
Honey 304 Calories per 100g
Maple 260 Calories per 100g
Agave 310 Calories per 100g
HFC 286 Calories per 100g
Dextrose 376 Calories per 100g
Molasses 290 Calories per 100g
Let's talk about calories
So as you can see, all types of sugars contain quite a few calories. But what does it mean, and how does this affect you? In this section, we'll be discussing everything you need to know about calories, what they are, the different types, and how you may be consuming hidden calories in your everyday.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is the energy that food gives to your body. Any given food is considered "fuel" by your body, and is burned to produce energy. But the amount of energy produced greatly varies depending on the food. To assess the numbers of calories in a piece of food, scientists measure how much energy it produces when burned.
Although eating more generally means consuming more calories, foods vary in the amount of energy that they give you. As a pointer, 100 grams of lettuce give you around 13 calories, while 100 grams of the fatty fruit avocados gives you 160 calories, over 10 times as much. This is because some foods are considered to be "calorie-dense": they give you a lot of energy even when eaten in smaller quantities. This is the case for sugar as well. Let's find out why it matters!
How many calories should you be consuming?
Calories are the energy that food gives your body and there is a basic principal that if you eat fewer calories than you need, you will lose weight and if you eat more calories that you need, you will store the unused calories as fat and gain weight.
So how much energy do you really need? Well, it all depends on a number of factors. The taller and the bigger you are, the more calories you will need to keep your body running. If you are very active, and burn a lot of calories through daily exercise or activity, you will also need a lot more calories to keep you going. Here are the basic recommendations:
On average, a woman needs to consume 2000 calories each day. This number may go up to 2500 calories for an active woman who exercises each day.
On average, men need to consume 2500 calories a day, up to 3000 depending on their exercise regime.
However, there are so many factors to take into consideration when deciding how many calories you should be consuming that it is hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, we recommend that you check out a calorie calculator that will give you the number of calories you should be consuming based on your gender, weight, height and activity level.
Are all calories the same?
The short answer to this question is no. A cup of sugar and one large nutritious meal cooked with whole grains and vegetables will give you roughly the same amount of calories. The difference is that one of these things will cause damage to your health, while the other will help you thrive.