Sophie's World Blog

Why and How Sugars are Important

Why and How Sugars are Important

It's good to hear that sugar is important, isn't it? Don't be to happy thoughh because I am only referring to sugar in food and fruit. There's no need for surplus sugar from candy.

What are sugar types and why do we need them?

Human body needs sugar as much as it needs carbohydrates. Sugar is a carbohydrate, but though we normally eat carbohydrate in our diet, sugar is not indispensable. The first thing to know is that we consume basically two types of sugar according to our diet. The first type is the naturally occurring sugar types such as lactose or fructose, which we get from fruits or dairy goods. The second type is the added sugars that become components of the food during its manufacturing process. This type is considered as an added amount over what we only need daily. To be aware of its presence, the only way is to check the labels and do the math.

Added sugar in goods can be found in several terms on its labels such as Brown sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, Fruit juice concentrates, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Invert sugar, Malt sugar, Molasses, Raw sugar, Sugar, Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), and Syrup.

The other terms on labels can refer to the product’s sugar content:

  • Sugar-Free – the product contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving
  • Reduced Sugar or Less Sugar – the product has at least 25 percent less sugar per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety
  • No Added Sugars or Without Added Sugars – no sugars or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during the processing of the product
  • Low Sugar – not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels

The sugar content on labels must include both naturally occurring and added sugar content, so if you multiply the grams of sugar by 4, you can have the number of calories from sugar in the product. If the product has no fruit or milk compounds, all of the sugars come from added sources in it. The reason for avoiding added sugars is very simple: added sugars have no nutrient value, it just adds empty calories. The first thing we can do to lose weight or live healthier is to reduce added sugar in our daily diet.

Manufactured products contain relatively high amounts of added sugar, even if they are classified as a healthy food source. People think they are healthy, such as instant oatmeal or sport drinks. A flavoured yoghurt already contains 20 grams more sugar over the suggested daily amount of 100 grams for a woman.

  • Barbecue sauce (2 tsp/serving)
  • Flavoured yoghurt (5 tsp/serving)
  • Fruit juices (4 tsp/cup)
  • Sport drinks (3.5 tsp/8 oz)
  • Chocolate milk (1.5 tsp/8 oz)
  • Granola (5 tsp/cup)
  • Ketchup (1.5 tsp/serving)
  • Sweetened teas (4 tsp/serving)
  • Instant oatmeal (3 tsp/packet)
  • Protein bars (4 tsp/bar)

What is the recommended amount of sugar in a well-balanced diet?

Sugar is an essential nutrient for the human body as it’s carbohydrate, but only in a limited amount. As our body can synthetize it from other sources such as starch, there’s no need for adding extra sugar to foods. It’s true that children (especially those under age 4), easily eat food with sugar and maybe this can help give them essential nutrients that are contained in not-too-tasty foods, but eating or not eating sugar can become a habit.

The American Heart Association suggests to limit our daily intake to 100 grams for women and 150 grams for men. A gram of sugar is 4 Cal, a teaspoon is 4 grams (16 calories). This information is found by checking labels. There are products that can have surprisingly high sugar content! In contrast with what's recommended, the average adult consumes 22 tsp sugar daily (352 Cal).

Sugar-free life

Eating added sugar or avoiding it is a habit that we can adapt in our family life too. Changing a diet is a big challenge in every way to a family, or even only for our individual selves, and it can be really hard to change our mind or deprive ourselves of sweets. It's best to switch to a sugar-free life by planning to do it during a period that requires avoidance of sugar for reasons like a health crisis or the time of pregnancy, breast feeding or whenever we need to be more conscious of our diet.

The choice between just cutting sugar to zero or replacing it and using lower amounts is the possible aims of a person. After all, cutting sugar to zero is not an easy task as mentioned on the discussion of added sugars.

Tips for avoiding sugar:

  • Remove it from the table (if you don’t see it, you won’t craving)
  • Cut back the amount that you use daily in your coffee. Step by step you’ll need less sugar.
  • Consider using other sweeteners like stevia or agave syrup
  • Check the label. If the product has a low-calorie or sugar-free version and the sweetener in it is natural, buy that one!
  • Drink tea or water instead of coke or sweetened drinks. Liquid calories are not so satisfying as solid ones so we can easily consume a high calorie amount by just drinking 3 glasses of coke a day.
  • Avoid eating sweets or unhealthy snacks between main meals
  • Reduce the sugar content while baking
  • Enhance the taste of meals (not its sweetness) with spices such as ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg, or use almond, orange or lemon
  • Don’t buy sweetened goods or snacks. It you don’t have it on the shelf, you won’t eat it.

Sugar addiction

Consuming too much sugar can cause weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, fatty liver, kidney stones, teeth problems, headaches, and fatigue. It can also increase the risk of cancer (as sugar supports bad processes in the cells). With regard to skin, since sugar supports inflammation in the body, it may cause acne too. Sugar breaks down collagen and elastin (the protein fibers that keep skin elastic and firm), causing wrinkles by damaging the structure of skin.

Sugar has addictive properties that make you want more and more. Sugar stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain which makes us feel pleasure. This is the reason why we call chocolate the “happiness hormone.” Something interesting happens when you avoid sugar for just a week: after the diet, you’ll find the taste of chocolate unbearably sweet. Consuming food sources with added sugar makes you increase the sweetness limit of your taste, that’s why you feel you need to eat strawberries with sugar. Strawberries are already sweet in their natural form, there’s no need to sweeten them more, but you may taste them as almost neutral as a high-sugar diet.

Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is a medical diagnosis. Consuming high amount of sugar have some effect on children’s behaviour and activity that is similar to hyperactivity. We can hear nowadays that sugar makes them hyperactive. The fact is that sugar increases blood pressure and causes a shock to the children’s body if they eat more than what can be easily digested, and that rapid change in blood sugar levels make them more active.

Sources:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/slideshow.asp?show=61#leaveComment

http://www.livestrong.com/article/474832-recommended-grams-of-sugar-per-day/

http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1004201-15-reasons-kick-sugar/#slide=17

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002426.htm

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