Sugar and Its Effect on Your Body

What do all the following descriptions have in common? Glucose, maltose, lactose, fructose, sucrose, galactose. If you guessed that they are all forms of sugar, you are correct. How do they affect our bodies though?

Glucose is the one type of sugar that our bodies need to supply fuel throughout the day. In fact, this one is actually produced by our bodies by breaking down foods such as fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Some sugars are found naturally in foods that we eat such as lactose (in milk products) and fructose (in fruits).

What is Wrong with Sugar?

So why does sugar get such a bad reputation? Mainly because people consume too much of it, and because it is now added to many foods that we consume daily. Approximately 15 percent of calories in an American’s diet are the result of added sugars. Those 15 percent of calories daily amount to 22 teaspoons of added sugar consumed daily! Sugars are added to foods and beverages to make them taste better.

Beverages may be the biggest culprits of added sugars—soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks are the main sources. Even fruit juices which are labelled as being “healthy” often contain added sugar to make them taste sweeter. Foods that are labelled “low-fat” are often laden with extra sugar to make up for the fat that has been omitted.

How to Know What You are Buying

So how does one identify added sugar in a food product? Read the labels. It may be difficult to identify added sugars, but they may be labelled any or all of the following: sucrose, corn sweetener, malt syrup, honey, anhydrous dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose sweeteners, molasses, fruit-juice concentrates, raw sugar, maple syrup, and most any other words ending in “-ose” which is the chemical suffix for sugar. If they are the first ingredients on the list, chances are that the majority of the product is sugar.

How Does Sugar Affect Our Bodies?

Sugar provides our bodies with calories but no other nutrients (often called empty calories). Large amounts of foods containing sugar can lead to obesity which can lead to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the added sugars in our diets. Women should consume no more than 100 calories per day from sugar (approximately 6 teaspoons), and men should consume no more than 150 calories per day from sugar (approximately 9 teaspoons).

If children grow up eating a large amount of sweet foods, they develop a preference for sweets. It is important for parents to expose children to a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables so that they develop the habit of healthy eating.

Common Foods and Their Sugar Content (Very Eye-Opening)

Here are some common foods that you may never guess have added sugar (or at least not this much!). Keep in mind that 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar equals 4 grams and 4 teaspoons equal 16 grams.

  1. Tropicana 100% orange juice 8 ounces  25 grams
  2. Yoplait original yogurt  27 grams
  3. Craisins dried cranberries 1/3 cup  29 grams
  4. Oscar Mayer Lunchables (crackers, turkey, and American cheese) 36 grams
  5. Coca-Cola Classic 12-ounce can  39 grams
  6. Starbucks café vanilla Frappuccino 16 oz  58 grams
  7. Subway 6” sweet onion teriyaki chicken sub  17 grams
  8. Froot Loops breakfast cereal ¾ cup  12 grams
Sugar — one teaspoon equals 4 grams.

More on sugars and sweeteners:

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