There is so much talk out there about sugars - what sugar is "good" and what sugar is "bad". You have so-called "professionals" telling you not to eat fruit because it contains too much sugar, but then at the same time advising people to juice so that they can cleanse their bodies. What? This does not match up. Then I hear people say that they can't have sugar but they can add tablespoon upon tablespoon of agave nectar to their tea, cookies, or mixed drinks because it's "natural"... hello! It is all still sugar!
My purpose in this post is to help give you the facts so that you can go out and make your own decisions. Below is a little breakdown with hopefully enough facts to improve understanding, avoid confusion and give you the info you need to make those sweet decisions on your own....
WHAT IS SUGAR?
Sugars are a composition of carbohydrates, called monosaccharides or disaccharides, in foods. These can be found naturally in the foods that we eat or they can be added to foods during the manufacturing process to increase sweetness and / or texture.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF SUGAR?
Monosaccharides are: fructose, glucose & galactose
Disaccharides are a combination of two of these monosaccharides. They include:
- sucrose (fructose + glucose)
- lactose (glucose + galactose)
- maltose (glucose + glucose).
SO WHAT FOODS CONTAIN SUGAR?
- Milk & yogurt (lactose)
- Fruits (fructose)
- Table sugar, honey, agave nectar, raw sugar, syrup (sucrose)
- Sweets & treats (sucrose)
WHAT MAKES SOME FOODS WITH SUGAR OK AND SOME NOT OK?
It is the added sugars, those added to a product during processing or added at the table, of which we need to be careful (not those naturally found in your apple, bell pepper, and milk). These are the sugars that health professionals warn against because they can increase our risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, among other conditions. Those sugars incorporated in fruits, milk, and yogurt are not the ones we need to be as wary of because these sugars are paired with fiber, water, and numerous other nutrients and so do not have the same negative health effects as those in nutrient - void sweets and treats. Therefore, we should be cautious of added sugars, those that appear in food and beverages in addition to the naturally occurring sugars in the item.
WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDED ADDED SUGAR INTAKES?
- The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10% of your daily calories from added sugar (based off of a 2000 calorie diet, this is about 200 calories per day OR 50 grams of sugar per day OR 12 teaspoons of sugar per day)
- The American Heart Association recommends:
- Max of 6 teaspoons (25 grams) added sugar per day for women
- Max of 9 teaspoons (37 grams) added sugar per day for men
HOW DO I KNOW IF A FOOD CONTAINS ADDED SUGAR?
1. Be on the lookout for the following words to pinpoint any added sugar in your meals & snacks:
- Words that contain "sugar"
- brown sugar, confectioner's powdered sugar, invert sugar, raw sugar, white sugar, granulated sugar
- Words that contain "nectar"
- agave nectar, peach nectar, pear nectar, fruit nectar, etc.
- Words that contain "syrup"
- corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup
- Words ending with"-ose"
- dextrose, fructose, anhydrous dextrose, lactose, crystal dextrose, maltose
- Caramel, cane juice / evaporated cane juice / cane juice crystals, fruit juice, honey, molasses, sweet sorghum
2. Look at the labels! In the near future food labels will start to include a new "Added Sugar" category. Take a look to see how many extra grams of sugar you are getting in your meal or snack.
WHEN IN DOUBT:
- Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables
- Choose milk and when choosing yogurts aim for varieties that don't creep too much over 12 grams of sugar per serving (which comes from the milk and yogurt's carbohydrate, lactose). Grams over 12 are probably coming from added sugars.
- Stick with minimally processed snack foods (I try to keep sugar grams per serving to single digits when looking at cereals, granola bars, and snack crackers)
While this article only touches the surface of sugars and carbohydrates, I hope it helps provide a bit more understanding. Please always feel free to comment or email with questions!