Frequently Asked Questions

How many calories are in a teaspoon of sugar?

A teaspoon of sugar has 15 calories.

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What is the serving size for sugar?

Two teaspoons. A packet of sugar contains one teaspoon.

Does sugar contain preservatives or other additives?

No. Sugar is pure sucrose. It contains no preservatives or additives of any kind.

Is sugar bleached during processing?

No. Pure sugar crystals are naturally colorless. No artificial bleaching or whitening is necessary. Molasses, which is naturally present in sugar beet and sugar cane and gives brown sugar its color, is removed from the sugar crystal with water and centrifuging. Carbon filters absorb any remaining colored plant materials.

How many grams are there in a:

Teaspoon brown sugar (packed) 4
Teaspoon white sugar 4
Tablespoon brown sugar (packed) 12
Tablespoon white sugar 12
Cup brown sugar (packed) 192
Cup white sugar 192

What are added sugars?

The term “added sugars” was defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016 as sugars that are:
•  added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such;
•  free mono- and disaccharides;
•  sugars from syrups and honey; and
•  sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type.

The FDA definition of added sugars does not include:
•  fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100 percent fruit juice that is sold to consumers; and
•  the fruit component of fruit spreads.

While many whole foods contain naturally-occurring sugars (e.g., sucrose, glucose or fructose in fruit and lactose in milk), these are not considered added sugars when found in whole foods. Other sweeteners such as sugar alcohols (e.g., erythritol and xylitol), low-calorie sweeteners (e.g., aspartame and sucralose) and no-calorie natural sweeteners (e.g., stevia leaf extract and monk fruit extract) are also not considered added sugars.

Why are sugars added to food?

Added sugars provide functions beyond sweetness in many foods. Sugar contributes texture and browning to baked goods. Yeast need sugar to regulate the fermentation process that causes bread to rise. Sugar adds mouth-pleasing bulk to ice cream and baked goods, preserves jams and fruits, and imparts a satisfying body or “mouthfeel” to beverages. In non- sweet foods—salad dressings, sauces, condiments— sugar enhances flavor and balances the natural acidity of tomato and vinegar-based products.

How can I tell if a product has added sugars?

The food labels on the back (or side) of pack always shows the list of ingredients (in descending order of weight) and soon all products will also include both the total sugars and added sugars content on the nutrition facts panel to help you know the amount of added sugars in a single serving.

How much added sugars do most Americans consume?

Added sugars consumption in 2013-2014 is reported to be about 13% of total calories, or around 270 calories per day. In teaspoons, estimated mean intakes across all age groups is 17.4 teaspoons per day.

What foods and beverages are the main sources of added sugars in Americans’ diets?

The main source of added sugars in the diet across all age groups are calorically sweetened beverages. Snacks and sweets are the second main source. Food categories that contribute nutrients such as fiber and vitamins and minerals as well as added sugars, such as ready-to-eat cereals, flavored milk and yogurt, are also among the top sources of added sugars in the diet.

For more information and references visit:

Sources of Added Sugars

Does my body know the difference between sugars found naturally in food (like a strawberry) vs. those that are added to food (like the sugar in my cereal)?

The body breaks down each type of sugar in exactly the same way, irrespective of where is comes from.

How does brown sugar differ from white sugar?

All sugar products in the marketplace differ only in crystal size or molasses content. Molasses adds both color and flavor. The darker the brown sugar, the more molasses it has.

Types of Sugar

How can brown sugar be stored to prevent hardening?

Brown sugar hardens when its moisture evaporates. Storing brown sugar in a way that allows the product to retain its natural moisture–in its original plastic bag (closed tightly) or in an airtight container–helps brown sugar stay moist. If brown sugar hardens, let it stand overnight in a sealed jar with a damp paper towel or apple slice. For a quick fix, heat the needed amount in a 250°F oven for a few minutes, or in a microwave oven on low for 1-2 minutes per cup. The softened brown sugar should be used immediately.

How can I soften hard white sugar?

Sugar hardens when it is exposed to moisture, like high humidity, and then the surface dries. Break the hardened sugar into manageable pieces with a meat tenderizer or heavy mixing spoon. Toss the pieces into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. It’s best to keep your sugar in a sealed container.

Can I substitute brown sugar for white granulated sugar in recipes?

Yes. While white sugar can be substituted with an equal amount of brown sugar, brown sugar will add a slight molasses flavor and moisture to your recipe.

Can I make my own brown sugar?

Yes! Combine one tablespoon of molasses with 1 cup white granulated sugar. Mix well.

Can confectioners (powdered) sugar be substituted for granulated sugar in a recipe?

These products usually are not interchangeable. Confectioners sugar is made up of much finer particles than granulated sugar, and it contains a small amount of corn starch to prevent caking.

Can I make powdered sugar at home?

Yes! Blend 1 cup of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to get 1 cup of powdered sugar.

Why do low fat products typically have more sugar than their counterparts?

Sugars are present naturally in some low-fat products such as yogurt. When fat is removed, these sugars then represent a higher percentage of the total product weight. You should always read the nutritional or food label on a food or drink product as low-fat doesn’t always mean lower calorie. For more information on the balance of sugar and fat in food composition, see our handout on the Sugar-Fat Seesaw.

Sugar 101

Sugar Basics

Find out what it is; where it comes from; and more about this simple, functional ingredient.

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Sugar 101

A Crash Course on the Many Types of Sugar

All sugar is made by first extracting sugar juice from sugar beet or sugar cane plants, and from there, many types of sugar can be produced.

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