It tastes great, but…
Would your friends describe you as having a sweet tooth? Do you need your daily fix of candy, soda, or sweets? People all over the world love the taste of sugar.
So it’s no wonder sugar is an ingredient in so many foods and drinks. But did you know you’re probably consuming more sugar than you think? And that translates to more calories than you realize.
While sugar has gotten a bad rap, it can’t be all bad, can it? Keep reading to get the sweet downlow on your sweet tooth’s best friend.
Sugar: The Good
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that your body needs for energy. Some foods naturally contain sugar such as dairy (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Other foods and drinks contain added sugars and syrups. Some of these – sodas, desserts, energy drinks, and sports drinks – contain high amounts of added sugar, making them more appealing.
Sugar has many purposes. It improves the flavor of food, gives baked foods color and texture, helps preserve foods like jelly and jam, works with yeast to help bread rise, gives food bulk, and balances the acidity found in foods containing tomatoes or vinegar. Contrary to popular belief, one sugar is no more healthy than another. Brown sugar, honey, and fruit juice concentrate have no more nutritional value than plain white sugar.
Sugar: The Bad
Eating foods high in added sugars and syrups puts you at higher risk for developing certain health problems including poor nutrition, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay.
Think about the foods that are filled with added sugar: cookies, cakes, candy, packaged snacks, sweetened cereals, and sodas. The main problem with eating foods like these is that they’re low in nutritional value but high in calories. As if extra calories isn’t bad enough, eating sweetened foods like these displaces the health foods filled with vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients your body needs. Drink sodas or sweetened juice at every meal, and you’ll miss out on the nutrients provided by milk or the water your body needs to function.
Foods high in sugar are also high in calories. As you know, a high-calorie diet contributes to weight gain and obesity. When you begin to gain weight or become obest, you put yourself in the line of fire of a long list of health problems: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats, stroke, and cancer to name a few. But don’t blame sugar! It’s not sugar’s fault. It’s the excess weight brought on by your inability to stop eating the sugar.
Also, frequently filling your mouth with sweetened snacks and drinks leads to tooth decay. Don’t practice good oral hygiene (and many kids don’t), and you can expect cavities sooner rather than later.
How Much Sugar?
Does this mean you should completely avoid all added sugar? No. Sugar is not necessarily the enemy. Moderation is the answer. Women should limit their sugar intake to six teaspoons a day, which equals about 100 calories. Men should limit the amount of sugar in their diet to nine teaspoons a day, which is about 150 calories.
To give you an idea of what this means, a 12-ounce can of non-diet soda has eight teaspoons of sugar and about 130 calories.
Does your diet need a sugar makeover? Here’s how.
- Drink water or low-fat milk rather than sodas, sports drinks, or sweetened coffee.
- Drink 100 percent juice rather than juice drinks with added sugar.
- Avoid non-nutritious, sugary, frosted cereals.
- Eat fresh fruit for dessert rather than cakes, cookies, or candy.
- Choose fruit that’s canned in juice or water instead of syrup.
- Instead of candy, cookies, and packaged snacks, eat fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt, or whole-grain crackers.
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