That article you read? It's not exactly accurate.
It’s true, yes, we as Americans eat more sugar than we should—about 19½ teaspoons per day (that's 82 grams), which adds up to 66 pounds a year. That’s about 2 to 3 times what’s recommended, depending on your daily calorie limits. And so it’s wise that we limit sugar-laden foods (Feeling like you need to break your sugar habit? Here are 3 tips).
But, not all sugar is exactly the same. So when a recent HuffPost article made the claim that certain healthy breakfast items had more sugar than a donut, we weren't terribly surprised to see them insinuating that you should trade your banana at breakfast for a donut. Here's why:
HuffPost’s piece pointed out that one yellow-skinned fruit has five grams more of the sweet stuff.
But what HuffPost glazed over (pun intended) is that number is total sugar. And 100% of the sugar in the banana is natural. It’s called fructose.
Those natural sugar grams don’t count towards your daily sugar limit. But added sugars—which are the ones in a donut—are the kind you need to watch and curb back on.
Added sugars are, well, added to foods and drinks during processing and preparation. In fact, sugar is added to 68% of packaged foods and drinks in the U.S. So, compare the added sugar in a donut versus a banana and here’s how it shakes out:
- Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Donut: 260 calories, 12g sugar (about 9g added)
- Banana (large): 102 calories, 17g sugar (0g added)
Why is that difference important? Eat a banana and you’ll get a good hit of fiber and potassium, as well as other key vitamins and minerals. A donut contains what we call “empty calories”—there’s not much in the way of nutritional value. This particular donut delivers 30% (6g) of your daily limit for saturated fat and 330mg sodium (or 15% of your day’s total), without any good-for-you vitamins or minerals.
But wait: I’m not here to suck all of the sweet, indulgent fun out of life. Go ahead, enjoy a donut on occasion. (I have my moments, too!) Just don’t think that sticky, sugary, glazed, goodness is actually a healthier choice than a banana (or that pizza is healthier than Raisin Bran, or that any junk food is better than a whole food). And—perhaps the most important takeaway here is—when you track your sugar intake—pay attention to added sugars.