There’s a Cake in my BigMac

Why do we put so much added sugar into our food and drinks?


Christina English

Why is this “added sugar crisis” happening, and how can we prevent it from continuing?

With 9 grams of sugar in a BigMac and 11 grams of sugar in a cake doughnut, it is quite alarming that the amounts of sugar in these foods are so close to one another. This means that in a BigMac, there are a little over 2 sugar packets added to your burger. Something even more shocking is that a half cup of pasta sauce can contain 12 grams of sugar. Comparing that to BBQ sauce, there is even more: with a whopping 17 grams.

For as long as people can remember, it has been explained to them to be extremely wary about the amounts of sugar they should intake. However, most individuals do not question why they are told this. They are not even aware of how much sugar is added to their food and drinks. Why is so much sugar added when it is clearly not a necessity?

According to the staff at Mayo Clinic, people add sugar mostly to mass-produced food items. This is done in order to make it seem more appetizing and to persuade people to buy and consume it.

The people at Mayo Clinic also say that sugar helps to preserve food that could potentially spoil. Jams and jellies, for example, contain sugar which helps them to last longer. It also assists with providing color, texture, and flavor to items made in a bakery. Fermentation, (which is the process of the bread rising while baking), is promoted by the amount of sugar contained in the dough. The sweetness balances the taste of tomatoes and vinegar in foods that contain both. Finally, sugar acts as a bulking agent, meaning it adds weight to the food without reducing the flavor in items such as ice cream and other baked goods.

“Eating too many foods with added sugars sets the stage for potential health problems, such as: poor nutrition, weight gain, increased triglycerides (fat in the bloodstream), and tooth decay,” Mayo Clinic explains.

While the desire to add flavor to certain food and drinks is not wrong; it can eventually become a problem if people eat too many sugar-fueled foods. Another important factor to be aware of is the fact that most of the healthy foods that have sugar added already contain natural sugar. 

The people at HealthCorps provide another reason as to why people add processed sugar to food. They explain that caramelizing the sugar (heating it up) after adding it to the food helps with promoting aspects such as correct consistency, taste, and texture to different types of candies, bread, jams, sauces, and dessert wine.

In order to prevent overconsumption of added sugar, both the Mayo Clinic and HealthCorps provide different ways to cut down on doing so. However, they still keep the aspects that people love about sugar. 

Mayo Clinic and HealthCorps both said that people should read the labels on the back of food items to see how much added sugar the food contains. HealthCorps also recommended for parents to let their children “taste test some new fruits and vegetables.” 

Mayo Clinic gave a list for people to look at that consisted of eating food and drinking beverages with reduced sugar and choosing fruits, vegetables, and low-fat items over sugary sweets.

By knowing why people eat so much added sugar and why it is mass-produced the way it is, we can start to develop a well-balanced diet that does not consist of a lot of added sugar.