Sugar in your diet can be naturally occurring or added. Natural sugars are found in products such as milk and fruit. Added sugars include sugars and syrups that are put into foods during preparation, processing or even added at the table. Examples of foods with added sugars include cakes, cookies, soft drinks, candy, sweetened yogurt, ice cream and fruit juices. Added sugars are used to enhance the flavor, texture, color, and shelf life of food products.
The effect of sugar on your body and overall health depends on the type of sugar you are consuming. Many people do not understand the difference between natural sugar and added sugar. Products that contain natural sugar are typically high in nutritional value and fiber content. For example, the nutrients found in an apple have an impact on how your body breaks down the sugar compared to a slice of cake. Fiber slows down the digestion process and helps prevent blood sugar levels from increasing quickly. Fiber in naturally occurring sugar also helps contribute to feeling full after a meal. On the other hand, the body breaks down added sugars rapidly, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to spike. As a result, you may not feel full after eating, no matter how many calories you have consumed and long term this can lead to many health issues.
Today, added sugars make up a large portion of many people’s daily caloric intake. This has contributed to increasing obesity rates among children and adults. Many people rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. It is important to become aware of your sugar intake because added sugars can contribute to extra calories and provide little nutritional value. A diet high in sugar is the leading cause of many health problems including poor nutrition, tooth decay, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
You may not even realize how much sugar you are consuming in your diet, due to the many names sugar can be listed as on a food label. Other terms for sugar include maltose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, fruit juice concentrates, malt syrup, cane syrup, honey, or raw sugar. The ingredients on a food label are listed in descending order by weight. Therefore, if you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product is likely to be high in added sugars. Although it may be difficult to read food labels, the Food and Drug Administration has updated the Nutrition Facts label to help people identify how much sugar is actually added to foods. The label on packed foods and drinks currently displays the total amount of grams of all sugars found in a serving of a product.
By limiting added sugars within your diet, you can cut back on calories without compromising nutrition. Focus on consuming more nutrient rich snacks such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and plain yogurt instead of cakes, cookies and candy. Lastly, try to drink water instead of sugary juices, sodas or sports drinks.