The newest nutritional offender is sugar. So, is sugar really the devil? The answer to this one is mostly yes. There are two different kind of sugars- naturally occurring sugars in fruit and dairy and then there is added sugar. Added sugar is exactly what it says- extra sugar whether it is brown or white or in the form of honey or maple syrup added to whatever you are eating. Added sugar has no nutritional value and is just empty calories that will make you fat and contribute to all sorts of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. How does sugar do this? In additional to spiking insulin (causing insulin resistance) and being sent to fat cells for storage (this is how you gain weight), it produces an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response is what is responsible to causing chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
So, is all sugar bad? No. Eating foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruits and vegetables that also contain vitamins and fiber is probably beneficial to your health. However, eating foods with lots of added sugars can lead to obesity and many other chronic disease states that will affect your long-term quality of life.
How much sugar should I consume per day? The federal dietary guidelines recommend no more than 10% of daily calories should come from sugar. So, if you follow a 2000 calorie diet- that is 200 calories or 50 g (12 teaspoons of sugar). To put that in perspective, a Grande Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino at Starbucks contains a whopping 73g of sugar- one beverage and you are way over the recommended amount!!
What can I do to control my sugar intake?
- Start by reading nutritional labels carefully. Even your favorite flavored yogurt which is probably touted as healthy contains 15+g of sugar.
- Try to cook for yourself. Even things like store bought marinara sauce has lots of added sugar that you would not suspect if you did not look for it.
- Stay away from sugary drinks. A 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew contains 46g of sugar. A 12-ounce container of Simply Lemonade contains 40g of sugar. This is almost your daily allowance of sugar in a 12-ounce beverage.