The American diet is filled with too much sugar. It’s no wonder most Americans exceed the 50 grams recommended daily allowance. Many health and nutritional experts have brazenly referred to sugar as poison…and for a good reason. The excess consumption of sugar in the diet has been associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Pick up any package at the grocery store and you’re likely to encounter ingredients such as corn syrup, cane sugar, molasses, etc. But there’s good news. By 2020 Nutrition Facts labels must reveal how much sugar in grams including the percentage Daily Value, on every package of food.
Are natural sugars better for us than added sugars? The answer is yes according to Dana Hunnes, a registered dietitian and adjunct assistant professor in the department of community health sciences at UCLA.
“If we eat a beet or if we eat an apple, we are also eating all the other nutrients encompassed in that food, including water, fats, and proteins,” she said. “When we take the sugar out of context, that sugar is devoid of all the heath-enhancing properties of the original food it was sourced from, losing all of its nutrient properties except for the sweetness and the calories.” (Krietsch, B. (2019, August 21). Natural Sugars vs. Added Sugars: Do Our Bodies Know The Difference? Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com
What is the difference between natural sugars and added sugars? According to Hunnes, “There is not much difference between sugar that is present in food naturally and the one that is added. However, how it’s presented to the body, what comes with it, and the quantity is much, much, much different.” (Krietsch, B. (2019, August 21). Natural Sugars vs. Added Sugars: Do Our Bodies Know The Difference? Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com
Additionally, natural sugars are better for the body because they are found in fruit and vegetables which is accompanied by fiber. This helps the sugar release more slowly into the bloodstream thereby avoiding a dramatic swing in blood sugar levels and spiking insulin.
Also, when you consume a natural sugar in a piece of fruit or vegetable, you’re getting the added benefits of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are supplied by it.
How much fruit and vegetables should we eat?
Most active and healthy people can eat fruits and vegetables without having to worry about it affecting their health. However, for individuals with diabetes, restricting their intake of fruit and vegetables is imperative when it comes to controlling their condition.
Rekha Kumar, an endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, is more cautious. She says “In our current predicament, I would tell people to be mindful of sugar from fruit,” she said. “I don’t think anything should be consumed in abundance.” (Krietsch, B. (2019, August 21). Natural Sugars vs. Added Sugars: Do Our Bodies Know The Difference? Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com
What about fruit and vegetable juices?
Be wary. Without the fiber, the juices will send a spike in blood sugar. “It’s the fiber, among other things, that significantly slows down the rate of digestion and absorption of the sugars. At this point, when there is no fiber, our body reacts to it very similarly as it would to sugar-water.” (Krietsch, B. (2019, August 21). Natural Sugars vs. Added Sugars: Do Our Bodies Know The Difference? Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com
What about dried fruit?
Dried fruit is good in moderation. It still contains fiber and nutrients. However, it’s much easier to overeat since the water content has been removed. It’s much easier to eat a package of dried apple rings than several apples. The calories and the sugar will add up fast, so be careful.
Natural sugar becomes added sugar when it’s stripped of nutrients. Consuming more fruits and vegetables is a more nutritious way to consume sugar. Regardless, sugar consumption should be limited to no more than 50 grams of sugar for a 2000 calorie diet.
It’s undisputed that Americans consume too much sugar. By simply making it a habit to read food labels, one can significantly reduce sugar consumption.