Sugar, fat, protein, carbs…nutrition can get a little confusing at times if you haven’t studied it! Even people who went on to earn degrees in nutrition at one point had to learn the difference between these types of terms and answer questions like “Does sugar have protein?”
Sugar is 100% sugar and does not contain any protein.
We’ll explain the difference between carbs, sugars, protein, and fat below to offer more insight as to why sugar doesn’t have protein.
Before we answer the question “Does sugar have protein?” let’s do a quick review of the macronutrients.
There are three macronutrients your body needs for energy. They are:
- Carbohydrates (carbs)
We can break down carbohydrates even more since there are different types. The three types of carbohydrates are:
So sugar is a carbohydrate, which is a different macronutrient from protein.
Does sugar have protein?
Pure sugar comes in different forms. The types of pure sugar include:
These sugar molecules occur naturally in different foods. For example, sucrose is present in table sugar (white sugar), while fructose is found in fruit.
These pure sugars do NOT contain protein, nor are sugars a type of protein.
However, sugar and protein can exist together. Just look at chocolate milk for example; there is natural sugar and added sugar (natural sugar from the milk, added sugar from the chocolate flavoring), but there is also protein from the cow’s milk. That doesn’t mean that the sugar contains protein – they just coexist in the same product.
What things ARE proteins?
So sugar doesn’t contain protein – what is protein made up of, then? Amino acids! Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. (Sugars are made up of mono- and disaccharides – which you can learn more about if you’re curious!)
There are 20 amino acids that make proteins and of those 20, nine of them are essential amino acids. That means that you must get those nine amino acids from your diet because your body doesn’t make them on its own like the other 11 amino acids.
Lots of other things are proteins, like enzymes (like lactase, which breaks down the sugar lactose) and hemoglobin (a protein in your red blood cells that transports oxygen).
So, to summarize: sugars don’t contain protein, but they can exist alongside protein in foods and drinks (and in your body).
Sugar is 100% sugar, not fat or protein. Sugar is part of the carbohydrate group, and fat and protein are the other macronutrients. In other words, sugar is a carbohydrate, not a fat or protein.
Some foods that are rich in protein include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and legumes like dried peas, soybeans, and lentils.
Eating protein along with sugar can help slow your digestion (protein takes longer to digest than sugar), which helps delay the rise in blood sugar after eating sugar. For instance, people with diabetes are encouraged to consume protein with carbohydrates, such as having a cheese stick (protein) with an apple (carbohydrate/sugar).
Consuming more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight would be considered excessive protein intake. That would equate to 146 grams of protein per day for someone weighing 160 pounds.