Sunday, September 13, 2020

Added Sugars and Risks for Your Health

Added sugar – many people don’t know the difference between sugars added to food versus the natural sugars in foods.  It is the added sugars that we need to be concerned about.  Nathan Myers, R.D., a clinical dietitian notes that it isn’t just the extra calories added sugars add to your day but all those added sugars can pose a risk to your health.  “Added sugar also increases your risk of developing a laundry list of serious health problems including being overweight and conditions related such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers.” 

What is Added Sugar?  What is the difference between Added Sugar and the Natural Sugar in foods?

Added Sugar:  This is the sugar that manufacturers add to foods.  It can be the simple white table sugar, or brown sugar but it can also be high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, molasses, corn syrup, or raw sugar.  FDA requires new food labels to clearly list the “added sugars” in a food.  You can also look at the ingredients list to see if any sugars have been added to a food.

Look at labels for Added Sugars.

Natural Sugars:  these are sugars naturally present in a food like fructose in fruit or lactose in real cow’s milk.  The manufacturer doesn’t add sugar to a banana or an apple.  Foods with natural sugar also provide important vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.  Real milk provides protein, calcium, vitamins A and D and many other nutrients.  Fruit not only provides vitamins and minerals but also fiber and those antioxidants that are so important to good health.  (See Antioxidants and Good Health.)

What foods are sources of Added Sugars?  There are 2 main sources of added sugar in the American diet.

  •  Sugar Sweetened Beverages – Almost half of all the added sugar in our diets comes from sugared beverages.  Think soda, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, fruit drinks like Sunny D and lemonade, energy drinks.  CDC states: 
        “In 2011-2014, 6 in 10 youth (63%) and 5 in 10 adults (49%) drank a sugar-sweetened beverage on a given day.  On average, U.S. youth consume 143 calories from SSBs [sugar sweetened beverages] and U.S. adults consume 145 calories from SSB’s on a given day.”
  •  Desserts and Snack Foods – this would be the candy, cake, cookies, donuts, ice cream, pastries and other treats we all enjoy.  These added sugar treats account for about 31% of the added sugar in our diets. 
Drink 100% juice.

 What are the health risks of Added Sugars?

  1. Empty, useless calories – Natural sugars are found in whole foods that provide lots of nutrients as noted above.  Added sugars are loaded with calories but little else.  Almost no vitamins or minerals, no fiber and no antioxidants.  That is why added sugars are called “empty calories”.  Added sugars are empty of important nutrients your body needs.
  2. As you age, the effects of added sugars are worse.  As you age your metabolism slows down, you need less calories and it is more important than ever that those calories are from nutrient-rich foods.  The more foods you eat with added sugar, the less room in your diet for nutrient-rich foods.
  3. Can added sugars lead to a shorter life span?  Apparently so, as diets high in added sugar are linked to an increase risk of heart disease.  A JAMA Internal Medicine study, “found people who consumed 21 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than those who kept it to less than 10 percent.”  Concerning since most adults in the U.S. consume 25% or more of their calories from added sugar.
  4. Added sugar is habit-forming.  When you eat foods high in added sugars, you get almost instant energy as added sugar is digested rapidly.  But then, the energy is gone and you may feel a sugar low.  So to boost their energy, some people eat more foods with added sugar.  But when you eat a banana, or an apple, you get the fructose sugar but not rapid surge in energy, as the fiber in the fruit slows the absorption of the natural sugar.

What are some ways to cut back on added sugar?

The Mayo Clinic has some suggestions:

  • Replace sugared beverages with water or low-fat milk.  Skip the sodas and sports drinks
  • Drink 100% real juice, not Sunny D or another fruit drink.  If it has added sugar, it isn’t real juice.
  • Cereals – choose cereals with less added sugars.
  • Canned fruit – choose packed in water and not packed in heavy syrup
  • Choose real food for snacks – popcorn, fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain chips

I enjoy my desserts.  Who doesn’t like some candy, cookies or cake?  But I try to avoid the added sugar in other foods like sugared sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks.  Read some labels this week and you may be surprised to find how many foods you eat have added sugar.

Sources:  notes , manufacturers , Foods ,  Antioxidants and Good Health , CDC , treats , useless , JAMA Internal Medicine , Mayo Clinic    Image Sources:  sugar  , juice, label


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