This Month is diabetes awareness month. This year’s theme got me thinking about the beverages I consume. The 2016 ‘Eyes on Diabetes’ theme is aimed at promoting the importance of screening for early diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.


Not too long ago I read an article by the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which made mention of sugar sweetened beverages being linked with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes – in doses of 1-2 servings per day as opposed to less than 1 serving per month.


The truth is whether the link proves to be truth or not, it’s very easy to reach 1-2 servings per day of a sweetened beverage. The scary thing about that is depending on what you choose, you can kill your recommended daily allowance of sugar with just that one beverage.


When it comes to daily allowances most sources will cite the American Heart association’s guidelines. In South Africa, the department of health adopted a system called food-based dietary guidelines – which fall more into the “nuggets of wisdom” category than a list of numbers to follow. When it comes to sugar, they say “Use food and drinks containing sugar sparingly, and not between meals”. Wise, but sometimes numbers are more powerful in helping one make decisions.


On the other hand, the American heart association give you numbers that are easy to relate to and work with. They recommend limiting your amount of ADDED sugar to 24g a day for women (6 teaspoons) and 36 grams a day for men (9 teaspoons).


I decided to look deeper at a few of my favourite and most commonly available drinks in South Africa and I’m breaking down how much sugar each contains for you.


Before reading my breakdown it’s important to know that I have not categorised between drink sizes and added and naturally occurring sugars. The reasons being;


  1. The drinks below all come in different sizes. In order to really tell which is more sugar laden you’d have to scale them on the same serving size. I chose not to do this because I think manufacturers can be misleading. The flavoured bottle of sparling water that I chose had a big block depicting the GDA’s. When I zoomed in close I was able to see that they say these GDA’s are based on a 250ml serving. The bottle comes is 500ml and I’d be shocked if anyone buys a bottle of a beverage and says to themselves, “I’m only having 100ml today” and then portions it out. It’s human nature to drink the size of the bottle. I wanted to know how much sugar I’d be consuming if I downed that 500ml bottle of “water” as opposed to a 330ml can of coke.


  1. None of the drinks I purchased separate naturally occurring and added sugars. What they will do is list ingredients and the order in which they are displayed tells you which ingredients form the majority of the beverage. The ingredients are listed from most to least. Drinks containing fruits will have sugar in the form of fructose and drinks containing milk have sugar in the form of lactose. One can deduce these non-artificial drinks are therefore better for you, the guidelines refer to ADDED sugar after all. Seeing as I (and maybe you too) don’t scan the grocery isles with a calculator and a link to the USDA food database, we’ve got to work with information that’s in front of our eyes.


So baring the above in mind, this is how much sugar you will find in some of your favourite drinks.


How much sugar is in orange juice


How much sugar is in Orange Juice?

Sir Juice Orange Juice

Bottle Size: 500ml

Energy per bottle: 740Kj

Sugar per bottle: 37.6g = 9.4 teaspoons

This Bottle tells you that is 81% orange juice meaning 19% of the beverage is made up of other ingredients.

Ingredient list: Orange pulp, Filtered Water, Sucrose, Orange Concentrate (not formulated), Clouding agent, Preservatives (sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, Pimaricin), Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Colourant (Beta Carotene).

Sucrose – a name for added sugar, appears in third position.

How much sugar is in flavoured water

How much sugar is in flavoured water

Bonaqua Strawberry Flavoured Sparkling Water

Bottle Size: 500ml

Energy per bottle: 608Kj

Sugar per bottle: 37.2g = 9.3 teaspoons

This Bottle is my weakness and the key to powering my many late nights of work. Seeing how much sugar is in it partly kills me and partly answers how it does such a good job at giving me energy spikes.

Ingredient list: Carbonated Water, Sucrose, Citric Acid, Flavouring, Preservative (Sodium Benzoate) and Non-nutritive Sweeteners (Acesulfame-K, Aspartame (contains Phenylalanine.)

Sucrose appears right after the water and this doesn’t include the sweetener stuck at the bottom of the list. May have to re-think my “secret” weapon.


How much sugar is in Coke

How much sugar is in Coke

Original Coca Cola

Can Size: 330ml

Energy per can: 594Kj

Sugar per can: 35 = 8.75 teaspoons

Kudos to coke for giving their RDA bubbles in relation to the size of the can.

Ingredient list: Carbonated water, sugar, caramel, phosphoric acid, flavouring and caffeine.

Sugar and Caramel are the added sugar here and fall right after the water, I always thought flavoured water would be healthier than coke but they’re not all that different.


How much sugar is in Steri Stumpie

How much sugar is in Steri Stumpie

Steri Stumpie Chocolate Flavoured Low Fat Milk

Bottle Size: 350ml

Energy per bottle: 968Kj

Sugar per bottle: 35g = 8.75 teaspoons

This Bottle makes it very clear that it is sweetened. Generally a good rule of thumb for low fat anything is that there will be added sugar in it. Making a food item low fat removes flavours and the way flavour is re added is with sugar.

Ingredient list: Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Stabiliser (E 407) and Flavouring

Sugar appears in second position but given that this is a dairy product and milk is the biggest ingredients, some of that sugar is naturally occurring.


How much sugar is in Drinking Yoghurt

How much sugar is in Drinking Yoghurt

Woolworths Low Fat Strawberry Flavoured Drinking Yoghurt

Bottle Size: 300ml

Energy per bottle: 867Kj

Sugar per bottle: 31.5g = 7.9 teaspoons

Woolworths aren’t hiding anything and tell you it is sweetened. As per the above this is because of its low fat nature.

Ingredient list: Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Water, Plant Based Stabiliser, Acid Regulator, Flavouring, Natural Colourants, Yoghurt Cultures – HOWARU™ Bifido (HN019) Culture

Sugar which stated simply as “sugar” sits in second position.


How much sugar is in Vitamin Water

How much sugar is in Vitamin Water

Glaceau Vitamin Water Rejuve

Bottle Size: 500ml

Energy per bottle: 476Kj

Sugar per bottle: 27.2g = 6.8 teaspoons

Vitamin water in specific was called out in the SAJCN as “nothing more than sugar water” and “perhaps one of the most brilliant examples of rebranding in corporate history”.

Ingredient list: Reverse Osmosis Water, Fructose, Sucrose, Potassium Chloride, Citric Acid, Flavouring, Vitamins (C, Niacin, Pantothenic Aacid, B6 & B12), Fruit and Vegetable extracts (colour), Stabilisers (Acacia gum and Ester gum), Minerals (Magnesium Lactate, Calcium Lactate and Potassium Phosphate).

Both Fructose and Sucrose are the added sugar over here.


How much sugar is in Coffee Drinks

How much sugar is in Coffee Drinks

Woolworths Hey Brew Cappuccino Café Latte Flavoured Milk

Cup Size: 250ml

Energy per cup: 563Kj

Sugar per cup: 16.5g = 4.1 teaspoons

Woolworths state on the packaging that it is sweetened.

Ingredient list: Low fat milk, Dark brown sugar (Cane sugar – Molasses), Coffee extract, Coffee, Emulsifier, Plant based stabiliser, Flavouring.

Sugar sits in the second position. Some labels will leave out the long description and merely refer to this as Molasses. Like other milk drinks there will be natural occurring sugar in this contributing to the total.


How much sugar is in Coconut Water

How much sugar is in Coconut Water

Vita Coco Coconut Water

Bottle Size: 330ml

Energy per bottle: 251Kj

Sugar per bottle: 15g = 3.75 teaspoons

This coconut water has the most telling label. With 99% of its contents being made out of actual coconut water and only 3 ingredients listed – it’s by far the most natural pumped up beverage.

Ingredient list: Coconut water (99%), Fructose (1%), Ascorbic Acid

They have added 1% of sugar to this but coconut water wins as the lowest sugar content beverage.

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