Sugar, sugar everywhere


Sugar has long been a concern for people seeking healthy diet and lifestyle. Are there good sugars, bad sugars? How much is enough and how much is too much?

According to the April 2012 Nutrition Action Healthletter, published by Center for Science in the Public Interest, most common sweeteners are broken down roughly into 1/2 fructose and 1/2 glucose in the body. That includes honey, table sugar,maple sugar, molasses, and high-fructose corn syrup. Agave is the only common sweetener on store shelves that is broken down into 88% fructose and 12% glucose. What does this mean? It means that our body does not distinguish the difference between the sweeteners that we use. Fructose may not cause as much of a spike in blood sugar, but there is not enough reliable scientific information to state that claim as fact. So, metabolically there is not a distinct difference.

The manufacturing of some sweeteners may be a consideration. Honey and maple syrup have very little environmental impact. High-fructose corn syrup uses mercury in the manufacturing which can leach into our environment. Cane sugar manufacture requires high levels of pesticide use and the inhumane treatment of workers, unless organic and free-trade certified.

As you are considering your choice of sweetener, experiment with different types. I find agave to be very sweet so therefore I use less of it. I find honey gives me heartburn. Maple syrup is great but I don’t necessarily want all of my foods to taste mapley. If I don’t have protein and fat with my sweetener, I find I will crash within an hour. Do you like the taste? Affordability. All of these things should be considered. There is not one superior product for everyone.

As to the quantity of added sugar that should be consumed each day, a good goal is 6 1/2 teaspoons for women and 9 1/2 for men. You do not have to count naturally occurring sugars in fruit, milk, and plain yogurt. If you are looking at a nutrition label the number of grams next to sugars is added sugars, unless the item is milk, yogurt, or fruit. To figure out how many teaspoons, just divide the number of grams by four to get the number of teaspoons. Plain yogurt usually has 10 grams of naturallyoccurring sugars. If you buy a yogurt with added fruit, deduct 10 from the grams of sugar and then divide this number by 4 to get the number of teaspoons of added sugar.

Don’t feel like you have to banish all sugar from your diet tomorrow. Take your time, become aware of if and when you add sugar to your diet, look at nutrition labels, try to choose packaged foods with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Just start to be aware and change will naturally follow.