Sugar. Is it okay or is it bad? Like everything, in moderation it can fit into a healthy meal plan, however, less sugar is definitely more when it comes to your health. Learn how you can identify, and limit added sugars in your daily diet.
A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine established that consuming too much sugar was one of the greatest threats to cardiovascular disease. According to Harvard Health Publishing in January 2022, Dr. Hu and his colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health “found an association between a high-sugar diet and a greater risk of dying from heart disease.”
Did you know the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 10% of your total daily calorie intake, which is 200 calories per day for a 2,000-calorie eating plan? One 20-oz bottle of Coca-Cola® has 260 calories from added sugars! That is more than recommended in one day.
What is the difference between natural and added sugars?
All Sugars Are Simple Carbohydrates
Sugar is a type of simple carbohydrate that is a quick and easy energy source for our brain and body. When we eat food with sugar in it—regardless if it comes from a piece of fruit or a teaspoon of honey in your tea— your body breaks the food down and uses the sugar for energy. Sometimes, it uses that energy right away while other times it stores it to use later.
Naturally Occurring Sugar in Foods
Some sugars are found naturally in food and do not count towards “added” sugars.
Here are some naturally occurring sugars found in healthy foods that not only provide energy but nutrition for our bodies:
- Dairy products contain a natural form of sugar called lactose, but they also provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
- Fruits and vegetables may contain a variety of natural sugars, but they also provide dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Grains provide some naturally occurring sugars, as well as vitamins and minerals. And many whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber and may provide additional nutrients, too.
The term added sugar does not include sugars that are found naturally in foods. It refers to sugars that are added to foods and drinks during processing or preparation typically for flavor or texture. In addition to the obvious, desserts and other sweets, sugar may be added to foods such as breads, cereals, energy bars, granola bars, ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, pasta sauces, and many beverages.
White sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, and maple syrup, are all added sugars and they all behave the same in our body – they provide quick energy without any added nutritional value.
When reading your ingredient list added sugars may come in many different names. Here is an incomplete list of some added sugars you may find in your foods’ ingredient list:
- Agave nectar
- Brown sugar
- Brown rice syrup
- Cane juice
- Coconut sugar
- Confectioner’s powdered sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Evaporated corn sweetener
- Fruit nectar
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Nectars (e.g., peach or pear nectar)
- Pancake syrup
- Raw sugar
- Sugar cane juice
- Turbinado sugar
- White granulated sugar
The bottom line is that added sugars simply make foods taste sweeter and may be linked to some serious health issues. While natural sugars found in dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains provide our bodies with additional nutritional value like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Which one will you choose?
If you are looking to make healthier choices in your diet and need some guidance, book an appointment today with Plessen Healthcare’s Registered Dietician Nutritionist, Colleen Cooke. Call Plessen Medical Center at 340-249-1065.