Wherever I go people are talking about their attempts at avoiding sugar. This is especially true when I meet with a new client.
Despite what some may think we DO need carbohydrates. What we also need is for some of those carbohydrates to be in the form of simple sugars. However, what we DO NOT need is for those simple sugars to be added sugars. It may seem like semantics to you but there is a difference between “sugars” and “added sugars”. Not to add to the confusion but although all added sugars are sugars not all sugars are added sugars.
Let’s take a piece of fruit like an apple. It is made up of carbohydrates, primarily in the form of simple sugars and fiber. If an apple had a food label it would list 15 grams of sugar and 4 grams of fiber and the ingredient list would simply read “Apple”. But if we looked at an “original” applesauce nutrition facts label it would show 22 grams of sugar and 1 gram of fiber per serving and list high fructose corn syrup as the second of four listed ingredients. The “natural” variety would have 11 grams of sugar and 1 gram of fiber and listed as the ingredients would be apples, water, ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Fiber is unfortunately lost when the skin is removed for processing the apples into applesauce. However, when comparing the amounts of sugar in both of this kid favorite food, there are 11 grams of sugar coming from high fructose corn syrup which is, you guessed it, an added sugar. It is these added sugars , the sugars that are found in the highly processed foods, that we need to limit (“limit”…not eliminate) because they are the sugars that are causing the problems that are plaguing our society.
People who eat too much added sugar are at a greater risk for developing obesity and its related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. A very large part of this, although not entirely, is due to the fact that foods that are high in added sugars don’t satisfy our hunger and only encourage us to eat more leading to an overconsumption of calories and weight gain. Furthermore, added sugars are a good example of “empty calories” since they don’t provide any nutritional or health benefits.
The simple sugars that are found naturally in fruit, vegetables, and low fat and fat free dairy (lactose) are packaged with healthful vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and protein that help us fight illness and allows us to get satisfied quicker and stay satisfied over longer periods of time. These are the sugars that we don’t need and don’t want to avoid. They are considered natural sugars or naturally occurring sugars.
The average American adult consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, that is 88 grams and 352 calories of added sugar . Whether you follow the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which states that Americans should limit their intake of added sugar to less than 10% of their total calorie intake or the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 6 grams of added sugar per day for women and 9 grams per day for men it is clear we are abusing sugar. We are consuming way too much.
Now before you say to yourself, “Not me!” because you aren’t a dessert eater, think again. Added sugars aren’t just found in the obvious places like cookies, cakes, brownies, sodas and candy. They are also found in salad dressings, sauces, many condiments, cereals, and yogurts. When we attempt to cut out all sugars we are hurting our bodies by not providing it with the vitamins and minerals and other nutrients that is primarily found in dairy, fruits and vegetables. We hurt our minds as well since we are overburdened by restricting too many foods unnecessarily. Over time we feel discouraged because we have deprived ourselves needlessly.
Hopefully the nutrition label will follow the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2016 and list the amount of added sugar to the panel. But until then we need to read the list of ingredients and choose those foods that are lowest in added sugar when we can. These are many of the ways that food manufacturers list sugar:
|SUGAR BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL SUGAR|
|Agave Nectar||Barley Malt Syrup||Beet Sugar||Brown Rice Syrup||Cane Crystals||Cane Crystal Juice||Cane Sugar|
|Coconut Sugar||Coconut Palm Sugar||Corn Sweetener||Corn Syrup||Corn Syrup Solids||Dehydrated Cane Juice||Dextrin|
|Dextrose||Evaporated Cane Juice||Fructose||Fruit Juice Concentrate||Glucose||High-Fructose Corn Syrup||Honey|
|Invert Sugar||Maltodextrin||Malt Syrup||Maltose||Maple Syrup||Molasses||Palm Sugar|
|Raw Sugar||Rice Syrup||Saccharose||Sorghum||Sorghum Syrup||Sucrose||Syrup|
I am not going to tell you that you can’t use ketchup when eating at your favorite brunch spot — that is just plain silly, no one has developed heart disease or gained weight because they added ketchup to their egg white veggie omelet. However, it is important to understand where added sugars come from so you can make adjustments and take this into consideration so that you are able to MANAGE YOUR SPLURGES authentically. For instance, if you are a ketchup fiend (and there are many of you out there) you may decide to buy ketchup that is made with less sugar (just be aware that it may have artificial sweeteners added to it), you may try to use less ketchup, or you may continue with your ketchup habit and just limit other foods with added sugar.
I am a firm believer that eating your favorite sweet treat or dessert every now and then, when eaten mindfully, is almost imperative to having a full and satisfying life. This will rarely cause long term health problems, weight gain, or be the reason behind a lack of weight loss. Rather, problems occur when we don’t take the appropriate measures to understand and educate ourselves about the foods we eat and in turn overburden ourselves with unnecessary and extreme restrictions that are impossible to maintain.