Sugar—the thing that tastes so sweet, makes our mouths water, found in desserts, sodas, chocolate and so much more. In food production, companies typically use sugar to sweeten, preserve or improve important attributes of food and beverages, including texture, color, body, browning and viscosity. While sugar does have these effects in many foods, Americans usually consume excessive amounts of sugar without knowing it, as companies add sugar to a variety of different foods. With everything Americans eat on a daily basis, we are currently closer to ingesting 160 pounds of sugar every year, which is about 10% of our overall diet.
So what does this mean for our bodies?
In biological terms, sugar is the simplest type of carbohydrate and is easily digested by our bodies. After initial consumption, the body converts sugar in glucose for energy production. But there is a distinction between added sugars and natural sugars: essentially, added sugars are empty calories and lacks essential micronutrients, while natural sugars are more energy and nutrient-rich. However, newer studies are showing that sugar may actually be worse than just empty calories— in high amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, consumers may begin to see the onset of dental cavities, cardiovascular diseases, liver toxicity and other chronic diseases.
So how much sugar should we actually be consuming?
According to the American Heart Association guidelines, women should eat no more than 100 calories from added sugars a day, and men no more than 150 calories. For perspective, one typical can of soda contains around 150 calories of sugar; this means that one can of soda can take up one’s sugar serving for the entire day! In other measurements, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends less than 10% of calories a day coming from added sugars.
In order to control sugar intake into our bodies, we must find smart ways to avoid sugar. One way to do so is to choose fruits over sweets. For someone with a sweet tooth, this can be very difficult—but fruits contain natural sugars that are much better for one’s body and are overall a healthier, more nutritious choice for satisfying a sweet craving. Additionally, many companies are coming out with products labeled “no sugar added.” These products offer the solution of continuing to eat a habitual meal or type of food, but refraining from consuming the extra added sugars. In a more hands on fashion, one can also limit the amount of sugar he or she adds when baking. This method allows one to physically control the amount of added sugar in his or her diet.
All this being said, a little sugary sweet here and there is fine in moderation. But in order to obtain this moderate consumption, it’s important to incorporate habits that limit one’s overall consumption of sugar. Because while sugar may make one happy in the short-term, moderating sugar will make one happy and healthy in the long run.
Sugar. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2019 from https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/sugar/
Nutrition Facts Label: Sugars. (n.d.) Retrieved March 13, 2019 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/interactivenutritionfactslabel/factsheets/sugars.pdf