As researchers and nutrition experts begin to discover—and admit—how bad sugar is for the body, there's more awareness of just how much sugar is contained in some of our favorite foods, even the ones that we think of as savory, not sweet. As Co.Exist reports, Antonio Rodríguez Estrada’s photography project sinAzucar (“sugar free”) aims to illustrate how much sugar is in the food we eat in a way that people understand—with sugar cubes.
Each cube is worth 4 grams of sugar. The World Health Organization and other experts recommend that you only eat about 25 grams of added sugar a day, by some counts. Some health groups allow for a little more, like the UK's National Health Service (30 grams) or the FDA's proposed 50 gram maximum—which may or may not have been influenced by the powerful Sugar Lobby, which has fought anti-sugar research for decades, including opposing the new "added sugars" designation on nutrition labels. From a health standpoint, the less sugar, the better. Ideally, you should really only be eating a little more than six sugar cubes over the course of your day. Some of Estrada's photographs show more than that in just one food.
Depressing as they are, some of the images are pretty obvious. Four Chips Ahoy! cookies (if you can manage to eat just four) have 8 and a half sugar cubes. An approximately 24-ounce Coke from Coca-Cola, one of the greatest targets of the fight against obesity, contains almost 20 cubes’ worth of sugar, by Estrada’s calculations. In the U.S., the biggest size of a McDonald’s soft drink, for example, is quite a bit bigger. Not to mention places like 7-11 that sell 64-ounce cups.
Some of the beverages on the list aren’t necessarily thought of as being as sugary as sodas, but are super-sugary nonetheless, like a Venti Starbucks white mocha, which contains some 20 sugar cubes of sweetness. A Powerade bottle, seemingly a healthier option than a Coke, has 9.5 lumps of sugar. (So if you’re drinking it after you work out, you’re probably undoing that healthy activity.) A flavored Activia yogurt, presumably part of a "balanced breakfast" contains four cubes' worth of sugar.
And some of the other photos might surprise—and terrify—you even more. A frozen barbecue pizza has more than four sugar cubes’ worth (barbecue sauce is notoriously sugary, but a small Domino's pizza has 13 grams of sugar—7 grams in the crust and 6 in the sauce). Just two pieces of toast adds up to a cube and a half.
The images can be a little misleading, though. The two Petit Suisse yogurt cups pictured have three cubes’ worth of sugar, but those are naturally occurring in dairy and don’t have the same health effects as added sugar. The same goes for the seven cubes of sugar in a 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice. Current research doesn’t support an association between obesity and eating naturally occurring sugars in milk and fruit, though many nutritionists recommend you eat sugary foods like fruit whole, rather than juiced, to maintain the benefits of the fruit’s fiber.
If you’re interested in eating less sugar, try The New York Times’ recent interactive quiz, which tests how little sugar you can eat in a day while consuming a selection of common meals and snacks.
All images courtesy of Antonio Rodríguez Estrada via sinAzucar.