How Sweet It Is?

added on: September 30, 2013

When Dr. John got out of dental school in 1986, researchers were predicting the end of dental decay within a generation. Fluoridated water, public health campaigns and a “vaccine” for dental decay seemed to indicate that cavities would soon become a thing of the past.

The advent of sweetened drinks and high fructose corn syrup has changed everything. Every day in our practice we find dental decay likely due to soda consumption, or more recently, “sports” drinks. Even “healthy” drinks like orange and cranberry juice are high in sugar content.

The Harvard School of Public Health recently released a handy guide to the amount of sugar and calories in soda, juice, sports drinks, and other popular beverages, How Sweet Is It? The front of the guide graphically depicts the number of teaspoons of sugar found in various drinks.

the dental health coach dr john korolewski

The back of the guide has a more comprehensive list of common beverages and their sugar and calorie content. The guide includes beverages that are sweetened with added sugars, as well as beverages that are naturally high in sugar, such as juice. It does not include “diet” drinks that are partly or entirely sweetened with artificial sweeteners or stevia (a natural calorie-free sweetener).

As you review the guide, keep the following in mind:

    • The Nutrition Source and the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health do not endorse specific brands, and the inclusion of brand-name beverages on this list does not constitute an endorsement.


    • Drinks that fall in the red category should be drunk infrequently and sparingly, if at all. These beverages have much more than 12 grams of sugar in a 12 ounce serving, and some have upwards of 40 grams of sugar—equivalent to about 10 teaspoons of sugar—and 200 or more calories in a 12-ounce serving.


    • Drinks that fall in the yellow category have up to one gram of sugar per ounce, or 12 grams of sugar in 12 ounces. That’s about 70 percent less sugar than a typical soft drink.* If drunk in moderation, these slightly sweet drinks are much better choices than high-sugar drinks, but don’t overdo it. Think of them as an occasional treat, not a daily source of hydration. There are relatively few drinks on the market that fall into the yellow category—and we believe there’s a need for beverage manufacturers to offer more low-sugar options.



  • Beverage manufacturers may have reformulated their products since we prepared this list in April 2009, or may have come out with new products. So use the beverage manufacturer’s websites as the best source of information on drink nutrient content and new beverages. View complete sourcing information from the handout.

If your goal is to keep your teeth as long as you can, our role is to help you understand the causes of dental disease. Sugar combined with dental plaque causes cavities – simple as that. Monitor the sugar in your diet by knowing what you are drinking.

For more tips and information on sugar, and how much is safe, click here!