Sugars are carbohydrates consisting of one or two saccharides (sugar molecules) and are naturally found in such foods as fruits, vegetables and dairy products. They are also added to products like soft drinks, cookies, pastries and jam.

There are different types of sugars, such as lactose (milk sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and sucrose (granulated sugar). Sugars are often added to foods because of the sweet taste, but sugar has multiple other functional properties. For example, it is a shelf-life extender and can be used as a bulking agent. But it can also be added in small quantities as a substrate for yeast in bread (to cause it to rise) and fermentation processes. In meat products, small quantities of sugars can be added to serve as carrier molecule for aromas and flavouring components. 

Like other carbohydrates and proteins, all types of sugar provide 4 kcal per gram. By comparison, alcohol provides 7 kcal per gram and fat 9 kcal per gram.

In summary

  • In the Netherlands, we extract sugar (sucrose) from sugar beets. Sucrose is a disaccharide consisting of glucose and fructose.
  • Cane sugar and beet sugar are exactly the same substance, although beet sugar has a lower environmental impact than cane sugar.
  • The Dutch National Food Consumption Survey conducted by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (2012-2016) shows that the Dutch consume an average of 110 grams of sugar per day: 60 grams of added sugars (11.3% of energy intake) and 50 grams of sugars naturally present in foods (9.7% of energy intake). Sugar consumption in the Netherlands decreased modestly over time. 
  • The Health Council of the Netherlands recommends to minimise consumption of sugar-containing beverages (soft drinks and juices). Liquid calories are less filling, making it easier to consume too many calories.
  • Sugars do not have a specific fattening effect. But if more calories (from carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol) are consumed over time than burned, this will result in weight gain. 
  • People with overweight have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 
  • The World Health Organization recommends consuming less than 10% of energy intake from free sugars. This guideline is based on the prevention of dental caries.
  • Dental caries (cavities) are caused by bacteria in the mouth that convert sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates from food into acids. To prevent cavities, the Ivoren Kruis, the Dutch Society for the Promotion of Oral Health, recommends eating or drinking no more than seven times a day.
  • Consumption of sugars in the Netherlands

    Consumption of sugars in the Netherlands

    What is the intake of sugars by the Dutch population and has it changed in recent years?
    Bestandstype: pdf
  • Consumption of carbohydrates in the Netherlands

    Consumption of carbohydrates in the Netherlands

    Results from the sixth Dutch Food Consumption Survey 2019-2021.
    Bestandstype: pdf
  • Carbohydrates in dietary guidelines

    Carbohydrates in dietary guidelines

    In this factsheet the dietary recommendations for carbohydrates are discussed.
    Bestandstype: pdf