The GOOD: Naturally occurring sugars found in food
Of course, we want to start off with the good! While sitting down to write this, I had 🎵 Pour some sugar on me🎵 playing in my head. Unfortunately, the good part of sugar is the exact opposite of this song’s lyrics. Do not pour the sugar on yourself, or your food. The good part of sugar is all about natural sugars. You should eat foods that naturally contain sugar, such as fruit, vegetables, and dairy products- like yogurt….but not all yogurts.
Let’s talk about fruit specifically. Some fad diets claim that avoiding fruit (due to its high sugar content) can be beneficial. I disagree.
When you eat fruit (and vegetables too!), you are consuming a natural sugar called fructose. No one adds fructose to your apple, it naturally occurs within the fruit. It was “born” that way (now playing Lady Gaga🎶). Fruits contain large amounts of antioxidants, nutrients (including fiber), vitamins and minerals. There are several studies showing fruit intake is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. We need to eat fruit as part of a balanced diet.
It’s important to remember that fruit and fruit juice are not equal. Fruit juice doesn’t contain the fiber that whole fruit does. And many fruit juices contain added sugar. This brings me to my next topic: The Bad.
The BAD: Added sugar
The more labels you read, the scarier it gets. Sugar is added to so many foods. Eating too much of this ‘added sugar’ has been linked to multiple negative side effects including weight gain and heart disease.
When someone asks me how to decrease the amount of added sugar in their diet, the answer is fairly simple- avoid processed foods. Often times, processed foods are loaded with added sugar. Focus on eating real foods with few ingredients. Cooking at home is another way to decrease your added sugar intake. If you are the one preparing your food, you can control what’s going into it.
Below is the ingredient list for Chobani Greek Yogurt- Strawberry
We’ve all heard it, Greek yogurt = lots of protein = healthy, right? If you look at the ingredient list, the second ingredient listed after the nonfat yogurt is evaporated cane sugar. This is simply another way of saying “sugar”. (I’ll elaborate on this in the next section: The Ugly). Evaporated cane sugar is actually listed before strawberries, meaning there is more added sugar in this yogurt than strawberries. A 5.3 oz container of this yogurt has 15 grams of sugar. Yogurt alone contains some natural sugar (in the form of lactose), but a lot of this 15 grams is coming from added sugar. How can I tell?
Below is the ingredient list for Chobani Greek Yogurt- Plain
The plain flavor doesn’t contain added sugar. A 5.3 oz container of this yogurt has only 4 grams of sugar, coming solely from the lactose in the yogurt. By choosing the plain yogurt (and sweetening it with fruit yourself) you can easily decrease your added sugar intake!
The UGLY: Sugar and its many disguises
Sugar is very sneaky. It is added to many foods that don’t naturally have sugar and it even camouflages itself under different names. So even if the word “sugar” is not on the ingredient list, it doesn’t mean the food is sugar-free. Sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, glucose, and dextrose are just a few names that make the list. To see a full list of sugar’s split personalities, click here .
Among the ‘sugars’ on this list, you will find maple syrup, honey, agave and coconut sugar. Are these products still considered sugar? Yes. Are they the same as refined ‘white sugar’? No. These products (or sugars) are less refined and therefore contain some of their original mineral content. If I’m whipping up a sweet treat at home, these are the sweeteners I opt for most of the time.
Can you completely cut added sugar out of your diet?
The answer is yes, but it’s difficult and I don’t necessarily recommend it. As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I’m a believer in balance. If you decide to avoid all added sugars all the time, it will likely backfire. We know that if we are told to restrict something, we crave it even more. This is when restricting can lead to overeating and possibly binging.
My advice is to look at ingredient lists and know what’s in your food. Compare labels and be your own detective 🕵🏼♀️. When I’m buying something that may have added sugar, like pasta sauce, my goal is to try and keep it under 7 grams of sugar per serving.
Whew. That was a long one. There is so much to say about sugar. Good, bad, ugly, but hopefully now… less confusing! If you have any questions about sugar or have another topic you want to learn more about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I’d love to hear from you! 😊