Natural or Added?
Sugar has become the villain of our modern diets. Magazines, websites, and books are constantly telling you about the addictive qualities and how to kick your habit. Clients come to me all the time claiming they would be so much healthier if they would just stop with the sweets. Some of them even go so far as to admit guilt over eating fruit, especially certain ones that they have read have more sugar in them than others. When it comes to breaking down the sugar story, the most important thing I warn people to look for is whether sugar is added to the food in question or if it is naturally occurring.
What’s the difference?
Basically, naturally occurring sugars include glucose, fructose, and lactose. You cannot take them out of the foods they are present in like fruits, vegetables or milk products. Added sugars, though, are sweeteners added to foods. Seemingly healthy and more natural alternatives like honey and maple syrup are highlighted to make the consumer feel like they are choosing better, but that still counts as added sweetener and you should be mindful of how much you consume regardless. The current recommendation is to limit your added sugars to 10% of your daily intake, which is pretty generous. If you reach for a lot of processed and packaged foods, you may be getting a lot more sugar than you think. It is best to carefully inspect the ingredients on the food label before consuming an item so you can be more aware. Soon, a new food label will highlight if the sugar is natural or added.
I have seen some claims that the body reacts the same to sugar whether it is natural or added. If you were to extract the sugar from fruits or dairy products, then it would react the same as added sugar. However, the other nutrients in foods help change how the body will process the sugar. For example, a pear has fiber, which slows digestion. A pack of skittles, on the other hand, is nothing but sugar.
So don’t worry about having a cup of grapes after dinner instead of a dish of ice cream, but make sure you keep your portions in check. Eating over and above your needs can cause problems such as weight gain. Make sure your diet is well balanced and you include regular exercise into your days.