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The Truth about Sugar

The Sugar Cloud

The looming cloud of sugar intake has clouded our judgment on our intake of foods that promote health, like fruit. Today, added sugar, not to be confused with natural sugars, is the culprit of poor health. Added sugars are not clearly stated on the nutrition facts label but, like Bob teaches in his Nutrition for Health lecture, shifting from a diet rich in packaged, convenience foods to more a whole food mindset we would, by default, decrease our added sugar intake. As a Registered Dietitian, I teach our guests to look beyond the nutrition facts label because foods that promote health tend not to have a label, the foods in the produce section.


The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10% of your calories come from added sugars. That is no more than 6 tsp for women and 9 tsp for men per day. You can easily get 16g of added sugar in one 20 oz soda from a vending machine. Added sugars are sugars or syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or packaged. According to the USDA, there are over 200 sugars used in the processing of foods and those sugars are used in 75% of the products that are sold in supermarkets.  The five most common sugars that products are sweetened with are corn syrups, sorghum, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar and fruit juice concentrate, but no matter what the name of the sugar is, even honey, it is considered added.


Added sugar consumption has shown to be detrimental to our health. There have been links to cardiovascular risk, type II diabetes, obesity and non-alcohol related fatty liver disease. Recent Research released from the University of Boston and the University of Pennsylvania show the number of deaths attributed to diabetes is closer to 12% instead of what is currently assigned, at 3%. It is more prominent than we think and at those numbers, diabetes would be the third leading cause of mortality in the United States.


What’s the case for fruit? If we think of our dietary pattern with one nutrient in mind, sugar, we miss the mark on our overall dietary pattern. Fruit is good for you and we need to incorporate fruit in our daily consumption whether it’s with meals or as a Fitbite. The New York Times wrote an article on fruit in July of 2013 in defense of nature’s candy. There are so many benefits to eating fruit like fiber, water, and anti-inflammatory effects from the various phytonutrients, i.e. colors, they have.


If all goes as planned on the Hill, the new nutrition facts label will be released in the summer of 2018. The new label will clearly differentiate between sugars that naturally occur in foods and added sugars. One rule of thumb is to put the foods that market sugar or sweetness on product packaging back on the shelf. For example Honey Nut Cheerios, maple brown sugar oatmeal, or sweet baby rays. Look for ‘no added sugar’ products and read the ingredient list for any added sugars. If you stick to whole foods you are going to be moving in the right direction.