A couple of days ago while on a 3-hour flight the attendant came by asking if I wanted anything to drink. I typically drink sparkling water and/or coffee on flights, but at that time something else sounded a little better. I saw a can of cranberry juice cocktail so I asked for that.
I poured some into a little plastic glass and sipped away while I was reading a medical paper. As the flight wore on I finished off the can. MD happened to pick it up and said to me: Do you have any idea how many carbs were in that can you just drank? She turned the label so I could read that had just consumed about 60 grams of sugar. I couldn’t believe it, but there is was in black and white. MD told me that all cranberry products have a ton of sugar because cranberry juice is extremely sour.
I can’t remember the brand of juice I drank. I intended to keep the can, but when I wasn’t paying attention the flight attendant came by and picked it up. Out of sight it went out of mind, and it didn’t think about it until I was long off the plane.
I decided to see if I could figure out the most sugar-laden drinks and pass it along to readers of this blog. As with most things you search for online, I discovered that someone else had already done it. Here is the link to a blog post showing the top 7 most sugar-filled drinks. As you can see, a cranberry juice drink is number two on the list.
It has always been a stunning fact to me that the single food that contributes more calories to the American diet than any other is sugar.  A full 20 percent of the standard American diet is made of sugar. Not just carbs, but sugar. That means that a typical 2500 Calorie diet contains 125 grams of sugar. Since (other than on the plane the other day) I don’t consume any sugar and neither does MD, that means that two other people are consuming 250 grams per day to keep the average where it is. Looking at some of the drinks on the above list, it is easy to see how it can be done.


  1. Hi Dr. Mike,
    You didn’t say how large the can was but at 4g/teaspoon for sugar, the 60g is equivalent to 15 teaspoons of sugar. A typical 12 oz can of non-diet soda has 40g or equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. I just recently reminded my daughter of this and asked her if she could see herself taking 12 oz of flavored water and adding 10 teaspoons of sugar to it. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would do this but they have no problem consuming multiple sodas everyday. It seems that manufacturers add sugar (such as HFCS) to everything to make it addictive so we crave more.
    Hi jay–
    It was a 12 ounce can that contained 2 servings. That’s why I was so surprised. A regular-sized soft drink can of a fruit juice containing more sugar than an equivalent can of soft drink.

  2. Those sugary “energy” drinks have to be the stupidest things ever invented.
    I remember being told by someone when I was little (back in the 80s) to skip the Caesar dressing (cause it was high in fat) and slam down the coke because it was “instant energy” that would turn into energy and not fat.
    :Billy smashes head against wall:
    It’s amazing how much ignorance is loose out there, isn’t it?

  3. Who knows if this is twoo but…

    Kennedy ‘Eating Ice Cream’ After Surgery On Artery
    Senator’s Carotid Artery Was 70 Percent Blocked
    (WBZ) BOSTON Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is expected to remain hospitalized for a few days, while recovering from surgery to repair a partially blocked artery in his neck. The blockage was discovered during routine examination of a decades-old back injury.
    Kennedy underwent the hour-long procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital on Friday morning to repair his left carotid artery – a major supplier of blood to the neck and head. WBZ has learned that artery was 70 percent blocked.
    By Friday afternoon, doctors said Senator Kennedy was sitting up, eating ice cream and drinking ginger ale. He planned to watch the Red Sox game Friday night.
    His recovery is expected to be quick. “After a very brief recovery period, Senator Kennedy will resume his normal schedule in Washington and in Massachusetts,” his spokesperson said.

    Senator Kennedy looks like he is no stranger to the junk food line. Why stop now?

  4. I like to make my own cranberry cocktail with unsweetened cranberry juice, adding 1/4 cup to some club soda or sugar-free tonic water with stevia to taste. It is also good in plain water with cinnamon, heated up, or with plain water and ~1T lemon juice, hot or cold.
    Sounds good. I’ll have to mobilize MD into making it for me.

  5. I can definitely believe that others are ingesting huge amounts. I just got home from Six Flags. They sell a large sport bottle (32 oz?) for $11.99 – and you get free refills all day! I’m fairly sure that most of those drinks are regular sodas.
    We sat on the train across from two chubby little kids, each of them lugging around one of those bottles.
    Very sad indeed.

  6. I think it’s appalling how much sugar is in food, especially HFCS. At least with a sweet drink you expect it, but when you look at the amounts in other foods!! Everything has sugar added!! Even chicken!
    One of the reasons I advocate an induction/intervention/phase 1 with new comers is to reset our taste for sweet. I know myself I’d always figured that there was no such thing as too sweet, but that sure has changed!! Now I swear I can taste added sugars in one bite.
    Even foods that are touted to be “healthy” have added sugar! “Evaporated cane juice” is one of my favorites…especially if it’s “organic”
    You mean it isn’t healthful if its’ organic pure cane sugar?

  7. Hello Dr. Eades,
    I initially posted this comment in your “metabolism and ketosis” article, but I did not notice the date it was written, and I was afraid that you might not answer questions from older topics, so I have reposted it here. I hope that this is okay =).
    I am a long time reader and health/science student just wanting to ask a few questions. I just want to make sure that this is correct first. Protein is integral to the production of ketones- when dietary protein is converted to glucose, ketones are used to fuel the process. These ketones are made from bodyfat when dietary fat runs low. Furthermore, skeletal muscle will never be burnt provided you consume adequate dietary protein.
    Hence, for maximum fatloss, would it work to eat close to 0 carbs a day and eat say 60-70 percent of your macros from protein, and 30-40 percent from fats as opposed to the 65% fats/ 30% protein / 5% carb (the typical keto diet) breakdown, whilst eating hypocalorically?
    This way the liver will be forced to convert dietary protein to glucose (I weigh about 90 kgs so I will need close to 150 grams of glucose I beleive), using ketones to fuel the energy expensive process. Since there will not be enough dietary fat to fuel this process (I presume), a higher percentage of bodyfat will have to be oxidised to ketone bodies equalling more BODYFAT loss. The high amount of protein (perhaps coupled with some weight lifting twice a week) will preserve muscle mass thus keeping my metabolism running well.
    Is there any downside to eating so much protein and so little fat? I beleive it is a myth that if you eat lots of protein you are training your body to “burn” protein as your number one fuel source…It IS a myth right? I really see no need to eat so much fat as is prescribed in other “keto” diets. And how low can you drop your calories before leptin and hypothyroid issues come into play?
    Thanks for reading! I look forward to some enlightening answers =).
    Posted the answer in the metabolism and ketosis article.

  8. I think in addition to this problem is the amount of fruit juices that people consume thinking they’re being healthy. They don’t realise how much sugar is contained within this ‘natural’ (that stupid word again) product and think of it as a good alternative to fizzy drinks.
    Then of course there are all the juices that have sugar added to them – but notice how cleverly they advertise these by down-playing the sugar and raving about the vitamins and nutrients from the ‘natural’ fruit juices which in most cases make up a very insignificant percentage of the overall drink!
    I know when I was growing up my parents were glad that I loved fruit juices and shunned fizzy drinks. I could easily drink 2-3 litres of OJ a day! The only thing they didn’t like about it was the expense but what they really should have been concerned about was the vast amounts of sugar I was taking in!
    The general public have no idea.
    Hi Anita–
    You are precisely on the mark with your comment. Juices are a way people have found to tickle their sweet tooth guiltlessly. Not without consequence, but without guilt.

  9. I remember as a kid eating a raw cranberry while my mother was making cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and literally gagging because it was so sour. Ironically with the amount of “sour” candies available my nieces and nephew can pop raw cranberries … well, like candy.
    I’m re-reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” because some of the science bogged me down on my initial reading, but what an eye-opener. I recently (and deliberately) went off low-carb for a couple of days and it all came back to me rapidly–the heartburn, the stomach problems, the bloating. SO not worth it. I want to get up on the roof and yell IT’S THE SUGAR, STUPID.
    It is indeed the sugar, stupid. If only all the stupids in the world would get it.

  10. hi dr eades!
    this reminds me of the pinkberry frozen yoghurt craze. i’ve heard so many times, “it’s healthy, there’s no fat – and only 5g of sugar” i decided to look for myself. guess what? their website says 5g of sugar per OUNCE, with 6, 8, 12 ounces available, i think. This must run afoul of some governmental rule cuz the website now says a serving is 101g(1/2 cup)which is 14 grams of carbohydrates. sizes are 1.4 servings, 2.2 servings and 3.6 servings. kinda confusing huh?
    …and it’s being promoted as being “good for you”. when a new store opens, there are lines around the block, swear-to-god…
    Pretty typical. Especially the part about there being no fat so it must be healthful. What a laugh.

  11. It’s sad because cranberries are a great low carb fruit and chock full of nutrients. I’d like to eat the “craisins” or dried cranberries, but they are full of added sugar.
    There is hope. Ocean Spray now has a “Diet” cranberry juice, sugar free and sweetened with splenda. I’ll have to try it and see how it affects my blood sugar. Now if they could only make dried cranberries sweetened with Splenda.
    Hey Dan–
    This is good news – I’ll keep my eyes open for it.

  12. Maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself (you had a moment of weakness/not paying attention).
    I had to buy some cough syrup yesterday (early fall cold) and husband Wil found that my preferred brand had HFCS and some other god-awful sweetener in it! We checked some other brands and came up with something better. It is appalling what is on the shelves and all of us have to be extremely vigilant to avoid this sugary stuff!!!
    Hi Judy–
    Totally vigilant all the time.

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