Nutrition Education: Sugar

Sweetness is, together with salt, one of the most widely appreciated tastes. Sweetness is mainly caused by sugars, a class of small, soluble carbohydrates present in fruits, plants and other natural products. Common sugars are fructose (levulose, fruit sugar), maltose (malt sugar), lactose (milk sugar), glucose (dextrose) and especially saccharose (sucrose, table sugar). In processed foods mainly saccharose is used. It can either be obtained from sugarcane or from sugar beets. 

Carbohydrates, the main source of fuel for our bodies, typically make up over 50% of our daily calories. The carbohydrates we consume throughout the day are so essential because they are broken down to glucose and used as fuel.

Sugar is one of the three types of carbohydrates we consume, fiber and starch being the others. Sugar is referred to as a simple carbohydrate or fast acting carbohydrate because it is immediately digested when it enters the body.

 

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What is happening when you eat a sugary bowl of cereal or drink a can of soda? When you consume sugar, a simple carbohydrate, it quickly rushes into your bloodstream causing you to feel a quick rush of energy. This large spike in blood sugar initiates the production of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreases to regulate blood sugar levels. As the insulin does its job, your blood sugar levels start to decrease resulting in the need for more quick-release fuel, often called a sugar craving.

Simple sugars can occur naturally in fruit and milk. However, the sugars to avoid are added and refined, these are most commonly found in processed foods. These foods have been stripped of their nutrients and fiber and replaced with added sugar. Over consuming high-sweetened foods and drinks can cause a plethora of health problems including, insomnia, headaches, allergies, tooth decay and even more serious effects like diabetes and obesity.

 

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Sugar Shockers

  • The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day- that is equal to consuming 51 pixy sticks.
  • The average child consumes 500 cans of soda annually- stacking one child’s cans would reach 197ft: 9ft taller than Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland.
  • Most people eat 100% of their sugar allowance during breakfast.
  • Many foods that are not sweet contain added sugar- ketchup, refined grains, mayonnaise, and cereals are some of the those.

 

WAYS TO AVOID HIDDEN SUGAR:

  • Read the labels
    • The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams for women, 36 grams for men, and 16 grams for preschoolers.
    • Children between the ages of 4-8 should consume less sugar at around 12 grams a day.
    • Teens and pre-teens should consume between 20-32 grams a day.

 

  • Scan the ingredients list
    • The word “sugar” is often hidden behind other names. Some including Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Glucose, High fructose corn syrup, Glucose solids, Beet sugar, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Caramel, Buttered syrup, and Malt syrup.
    • Hint: The words “syrup”, “sweetener”, and anything ending in “ose” can usually be assumed to be “sugar”.

 

  • Choose healthy alternatives
    • Get your carbohydrates for from other sources
      • Starchy foods ~ vegetables, lentils, beans, grains (oats, wheat and barley)
      • Fiber rich ~ milk, eggs, meat, and fish
      • Simple sugars that are naturally occurring and unrefined ~ fruit and milk
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