There’s been a conversation about the dangers of sugar for a while now. We constantly use phrases like sugar addiction and protect our children from getting too bouncy off sugar.
These days, there are diets that are fully based on cutting sugar out of the diet and letting people see the changes that come with it. On the other side, we have claims that eating sugar will not ruin your progress, and you can keep consuming it.
Where does the truth really lay, though?
The truth is really in between. Why? Because sugar is not made equal per se.
In this post, we are going to talk about two types of sugar-natural sugar and added sugar.
Natural sugar, that is found in fruit in the form of fructose and in dairy (milk and cheese) in the form of lactose and refined sugar, that comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. It is usually found as sucrose-a combination of fructose and glucose.
The big differentiating factor is that foods with natural sugar are also filled with a ton of important vitamins and minerals, on top of having high water content and being low in sodium and calories. Fruits are also full of fiber, that is not only an important part of the healthy diet, but is also slow to digest which helps with feeling full for longer than if you ate a donut and doesn’t spike blood sugar as rapidly as the donut would. When it comes to lactose from milk, it comes with a good serving of protein that also helps that satiation feeling stay longer.
When it comes to added sugar, you should be more aware of what you are consuming and how much. It’s important to keep in mind that added sugars can be added by you- when you add sugar to your coffee or bake something using sweeteners, or it can be added by the manufacturer. A lot of times foods containing added sugar are not nutritiously dense, and because of that our bodies can create a spike in blood glucose level (sugar). Over time, consistently consuming foods with high amounts of added sugar can lead to a plethora of medical complications, such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Now, that we know the difference, let’s find out what the recommended amount of sugar per day is.
The American Heart Association recommends to keep sugar intake under 24 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day for men.
1 teaspoon= 4 grams of sugar
You might be thinking, well, 24 and 36 grams do seems like a reasonable amount.
Let’s look at some common sodas, drinks and snacks….
It’s actually kind of crazy when you think about it. One bottle of Coke contains 65 grams of sugar. Consuming liquid calories can be compared to a termite infestation. You don’t realize the damage is being done until you have to do major repairs. Gross comparison, I know, but that’s kind of the point.
How many sodas can one easily drink in a day? Two? Three? Five? Or have a couple of “refreshing” Starbucks drinks on a hot day. The point is, it’s not only a lot of calories that people don’t pay attention to, but the amount of added sugar is through the roof.
And without going into the fact that water costs more than soda in McDonald’s drive-through (that’s a whole different story that we won’t be covering here), fixing the damage done by overconsumption of sugar can be a hard and long road depending on how far that sugar addiction journey took you.
In all seriousness though, if you are working on living a healthier lifestyle, you should keep an eye on your processed food and drink consumption. MyFitnessPal is probably the easiest way to track your sugar intake in their Nutrients tab.
What are some dangers of overconsumption of added sugar?
Research shows that consumption of added sugars in snacks, sweets and sodas has a direct correlation with weight gain and obesity. More often than not, these foods are high in calories, yet low in the nutritional value profile. Due to the rapid increase in blood sugar that happens when you consume food with added sugar, the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes increases as well.
When consuming extra sugar, there’s also an increased risk of development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease as well as, having increased triglyceride levels that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
How to spot added Sugars on Ingredients Lists or Nutrition Facts Label
There are so many names that added sugars have. There are more than 60 different names, a lot of them end with -ose- on the end, like fructose, sucrose and so on. It is important to remember that added sugar is not only found in sweets or desserts. It can be found in so many foods like breads, soups, cured meats, yogurts, frozen meals, instant oatmeal, granola, dried fruit, salad dressings, protein bars, baby food and more. It’s through these foods, the hidden ones, that sugar intake can add up on day-to-day basis and knowing what to look for is key.
On the Nutrition Facts Label, you can find both total sugar-this one can be natural and added sugar amount. It’s under the Carbohydrates, and it’s a good thing to keep an eye on when buying things. Being able to read the label can help adjust the diet for the better in just a few easy choices. The new style of the label- the one that we have displayed right here, has extra added information that till help you in your purchasing decisions. The combination of both ingredients and the nutrition information is the best approach.
So, how much sugar should I be eating?
The USDA recommends 2 cups of fruit and at least 2.5 cups of vegetables daily for adults. And adults should get two to three servings of dairy per day — 1 cup of nonfat or low-fat milk, 1 cup of nonfat or low-fat yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of natural cheese all count as one serving.
In this situation, we, of course, are talking about natural sugar found in fruit and dairy. If you’re bad at eating fruits and veggies, supplement companies have green and red powders filled with nutrients. It’s not an ideal situation and overall better to eat proper fruits and vegetables, but if you want to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins in your diet it can be helpful.
Berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and apples are high in antioxidants and can help reduce risks of cancer. They are also delicious, which is a great add-on.
We are strong believers in balance when it comes to the diet and not categorizing foods in the bad and good categories. There are, however, foods that are rich in nutrients and foods that are not. And while a donut or candy or soda are not filled with nutrients, we all have a soft spot for delicious treats. For general health, following 80/20 principal, that being eating clean nutrient dense foods for 80% of the time and allowing yourself 20% for foods you enjoy, is probably one of the best sustainable way to eat where you don’t feel deprived but also prioritize food that nourishes your body. Added sugars are not inherently bad, added sugars in excess is when things could get slightly more complicated. As we mentioned earlier, there’s a vast amount of health complications that can be caused by high blood sugar, and if you have any concerns about your processed sugar intake, the best thing to do would be to consult with your doctor and make sure your levels are where they need to be.
To bring it full circle, sugar is not inherently bad, and we need natural sugar for nutrients and minerals as well as for energy. Now that you know what to look for on the ingredients label, keeping an eye on added sugar in the processed food can drastically change your diet for the better. Candy and treats will not ruin your progress or health if consumed in moderation.