By: Jessica Basso, RN
If you’re like many people, you may be eating and drinking more sugar than you realize because it’s added to so many foods and beverages. “Added sugar” adds calories without adding nutrients. Some evidence suggests there’s a relationship between added sugars and obesity, diabetes and heart disease. All sugar, whether natural or processed, is a type of simple carbohydrate your body uses for energy. Fruits, vegetables and dairy foods naturally contain sugar, which we call simple carbohydrates. “Added sugar” refers to sugars and syrups added to foods during processing. Desserts, sodas, energy and sports drinks are the top sources of added sugar.Sugar goes by many different names, depending on its source and how it was made. This can also make it hard to identify added sugar when reading ingredient lists and food labels. Check for ingredients ending in “ose” – that’s the chemical name for many types of sugar, such as fructose, glucose, maltose and dextrose. Added sugar is often found in foods that also contain solid fats, such as butter, margarine or shortening in baked goods. Eating too many foods with added sugar and solid fats sets the stage for potential health problems, such as poor nutrition, weight gain, increased triglycerides, or tooth decay.
The American Heart Association has specific guidelines for added sugar — no more than 100 calories a day of added sugar for most women and no more than 150 calories a day for most men. That’s about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 for men. Unfortunately, most Americans get more than 22 teaspoons — or 355 calories — of added sugar a day, which far exceeds these recommendations. Regular consumption of large quantities of sugar can result in a state of addiction to sugar. Nutritionists and Scientists are discovering that when the body is accustomed to high levels of sugar consumption, it can respond to sugar deprivation with the same kinds of withdrawal symptoms experienced by a drug abuser. Consuming sugar gives one temporary “highs” of energy and mood elevation. During sugar withdrawal symptoms can include fatigue, anxiety or irritability, depression and detachment, rapid heart rate or palpitations, and poor sleep. Most symptoms, if they do occur, last only a few days until your body is completely detoxed.
A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein foods can help stabilize blood sugar and minimize the desire for sugar. Many people who are protein deficient seem to crave sugars and carbohydrate foods. Eating a diet that focuses on protein and vegetables is a good way to minimize sugar cravings. By limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet, you can cut calories without compromising on nutrition. In fact, cutting back on foods with added sugar and solid fats may make it easier to get the nutrients you need without exceeding your calorie goal.