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Why Is Sugar Bad for Weight Loss?

By Stan Mack ; Updated July 18, 2017

When you’re trying to cut back on your calorie intake so that your body will burn its fat stores, the last thing you need is sugar, which provides 4 calories per gram. That means 1 tsp. of sugar contains 16 calories. The worst part? Sugar doesn’t provide any nutrients, so all those calories you take in are for nothing.


Healthy foods provide important nutrients in addition to the calories they contain. For example, fruits, vegetables and whole grain products provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you’re on a weight-loss diet, eating these foods provides the fuel and nutrients your body needs to maintain healthy function. But if instead of healthy foods you eat candies, sweets, baked goods, sodas and other sugary items, your body likely will receive many more calories than it needs, which it then will store as fat.

Naturally Occurring Sugars

Naturally occurring sugars, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk, don’t threaten your weight loss program as much as added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars aren’t present in large amounts, so they add a bit of sweetness to foods that also contain many other healthy nutrients. If you eat a diet that consists mainly of whole-grain foods, vegetables and fruit, the naturally occurring sugars you take in likely won’t jeopardize your diet.

Added Sugars

Added sugars are another story. Food manufacturers often add sweeteners to provide bulk, act as a preservative, aid in fermentation, maintain freshness or improve flavor. Foods with much added sugar often are high in calories but relatively low in nutrients, a bad combination for people hoping to lose weight. Manufacturers use a variety of sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, malt syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, brown sugar, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, molasses, sucrose, syrup and raw sugar.


You don’t need to memorize all the different names of sweeteners. Instead, just read the nutrition label, which reports how much total sugar a serving of a food or beverage contains. The nutrition label doesn’t distinguish between types of sugar, but for calorie-watching purposes, all that matters is figuring out which foods are high in sugar so that you can avoid them. Generally, you can keep your sugar intake low by eliminating processed foods from your diet and opting for fresh foods instead.

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