• Sugar isn’t as bad for you as you may think. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, and other carbohydrates contain naturally occurring forms.
  • The USDA and HHS recommends capping added sugar to 10% of your total daily calories, or about 50 grams out of a 2,000 calorie diet.
  • Watch out for hidden sources of added sugar in beverages and processed foods.

    When you’re at the supermarket looking at food labels, you may have noticed a new section on some Nutrition Facts panels: added sugar. By 2021, it’ll become mandatory for companies to list how much added sugar is in each product, and it’s enough to make you wonder: Is sugar really so bad for you?

    The idea that sugar is bad and addictive is arguably the queen of all diet myths these days. For any nutrient, the dose makes the poison: Eat too little, and you’ll run into health problems. Eat too much, and you’ll run into health problems. While “moderation” is a trope older than the phone book, it’s an important key to better health so long as you’re defining it for yourself and staying in touch with your body’s satiety cues.

    The reason why sugar has become public enemy number one in recent years is because of where you’ll find it: heavily processed food and beverages. Since it’s added to lots of wholesome foods during processing, it’s one of the easiest nutrients to overeat. The other problem is that added sugar is often found in foods that don’t make you feel full, but do add calories from the sugar itself. Consuming excess added sugar is linked to heart disease, diabetes, lifestyle-related cancers, and even cognitive decline.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends limiting added sugar to 10% of your total daily calories. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 50 grams per day, but calorie needs vary individually. If 50 grams sounds strict to you, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day, and men stay under 36 grams of added sugar per day.

    FYI: One teaspoon of sugar is about equal to 4 grams.

    The Types of Sugar

    Since carbs ultimately break down into glucose, the simplest form of sugar that fuels our organs and keeps us alive, you’ll find sugar in just about any food — at least to some degree. However, there are two main types of sugars when it comes to food labels: naturally occurring and added.

    What are naturally occurring sugars?

    Peaches pattern. Top view of fresh fruits on a blue background. Repetition concept

    virtustudioGetty Images

    All carbohydrates contain naturally occurring sugar, and you certainly shouldn’t avoid them — they’re in veggies and fruit, after all! They include:

    • Fructose (fruit sugar): fruit, honey, and root veggies
    • Lactose (milk sugar): dairy products
    • Sucrose (a combo of glucose and fructose): carbohydrates of all types, including produce

      Fruit contains about 15 grams of naturally occurring sugar in one small piece (e.g., a small apple) or one cup serving (e.g., grapes). Similarly, an 8-ounce cup of milk is going to have about 12 grams of sugar. But because produce also contains fiber and dairy products also contain protein, these real, wholesome foods take more time and effort to digest compared to, say, a soda with added sugar.

      What is added sugar?

      Donut isolated on a pink background. A single doughnut with chocolate icing. Top view

      virtustudioGetty Images


      Added sugars are ones that literally get added to a food, whether that’s you adding a sugar packet (or six) to your morning tea or purchasing a tea with 26 grams of sugar already in the bottle. Types of added sugar include fruit juice concentrate, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, caramel, maltose, maple syrup, dextrose, tapioca, brown rice, corn, sorghum, wheat, glucose syrups, confectioners sugar, barley malt, corn syrup, molasses, turbinado sugar, galactose, and treacle.

      The number one source of added sugar in the U.S. is beverages, which also do very little by way of satiety. (When you’re drinking something sweet, like fresh glass of celery juice or a Coca-Cola, do you feel full afterward? I’m guessing not so much.) These other food categories also often contain added sugars:

      • Sweetened grain-based products, like cookies
      • Sweetened dairy products and non-dairy alternatives, like some yogurts
      • Sweetened foods and drinks with veggies or fruit as the base, like smoothies
      • Condiments, toppings, and syrups, like BBQ sauce

        To make matters more confusing, some products sweetened with fruit juice or fruit puree can still get labeled as “No Sugar Added” because they falls under the FDA’s definition of “naturally occurring.” If this makes you want to give up, fear not! There are a number of ways to cut back while still eating the foods you love. To consciously treat yourself regularly, here are my top tips adapted from my new book, Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked):

        How to Eat Less Sugar (And Still Have Dessert Every Day)

        Delicious looking chocolate bar

        mdursonGetty Images

        So now you know the difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars, you know exactly what to do, right?! Just kidding! It can be tricky no matter what you’re eating, so here’s a guide to make sweet-shopping simpler.

        Read the label: The first ingredient should be a real, whole food— not sugar by a different alias, or sugar itself.

        Consider concentrated sources (of naturally occurring) sugar, which you’ll find often in bottled beverages, like smoothies.

        Know the difference between snacks versus treats: If you like sweets and your goal is to eat a real treat — whatever that means for you, personally — decide if an item that contains added sugar is “worth it” for you to miss dessert today. For example, do you really want a super-sweetened yogurt parfait at breakfast instead of opting in on a brownie after dinner?

        Aim for around 250 calories of “dessert” daily: This will help you stick to that whole “50g of added sugar” concept without making you feel beholden to tallying up numbers. Of course, how much and how often you indulge is up to you, but for better health, use 250 or less as your general cap for a daily indulgence

        When in doubt, choose chocolate. Chocolate itself is higher in fat and feels a little bit more satisfying, so it can make it just a little bit harder to overdo versus sour or gummy candies, which are straight sugar.

        The Best Desserts for When You’re Craving Something Sweet

        These are my go-to favorites for when the sweet tooth strikes:

        • Prepackaged ice creams: A Mini Klondike, Blue Bunny Mini Cone, or single-serving Häagen-Dazs cup are better options than bringing the whole tub into your home.
        • Bulk candies that are just chocolate: Dove and Hershey’s do this best. You can have nine Hershey’s Kisses to yield a full serving!
        • Cinnamon of any kind: If it’s spicy enough, you’ll slow down as you go. See’s Candies Cinnamon Lollypops, Atomic Fireballs, and Hot Tamales have all been successful treat options with clients.
        • Single-serve chocolate-covered fruit: Try Diana’s Bananas, Dole Dippers or similar items from Trader Joe’s.
        • Mint and peppermint: You won’t want to spoil that fresh flavor of Peppermint Patties or Andes Thins by going for something else.
        • Dark chocolate — and not for the “antioxidants:” Getting a super-rich, specialty dark chocolate from somewhere amazing is a bit self-limiting.
            Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Good Housekeeping Institute
            Director, Nutrition Lab A registered dietitian with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, Jaclyn “Jackie” London handles all of Good Housekeeping’s nutrition-related content, testing, and evaluation.

            https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a26289268/is-sugar-bad-for-you/

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