Sugar: The Good and The Bad

Ilia Jones  |  Posted: Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

The average American now consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar in a day.  That’s roughly 16 teaspoons more than the daily sugar intake recommendation by the AHA. Sugar has become a popular topic in the last few years with multiple studies and even popular documentaries dedicated to sugar and its role in our daily lives.  Even while there is so much information around sugar, there is still a lot of confusion around the subject.

Let’s break down this pesky and highly addictive little substance.

There are two main forms of sugar that we consume.  Natural, and added sugars. These two forms of sugars are very different.  Natural sugars can actually be a way to promote a healthy lifestyle, while added sugars contain little to no nutritional value.  Any kind of sugar, however, can be addictive as both kinds will release dopamine and beta-endorphins in the brain. It also allows more serotonin into the brain, creating a relaxed feeling in our bodies.  All of this combined makes sugar highly addictive and relatively difficult to avoid.

Natural “Good” Sugar

Natural sugars are found naturally in unprocessed foods.  This kind of sugar is called fructose, which occurs in fruit; or lactose, which occurs in dairy products.  It’s important to understand that if you have a condition like prediabetes, limiting any kind of sugar should be considered and following your Doctor’s recommendations for even natural sugar intake can help to reverse or postpone a diagnosis of diabetes. Just as with anything, an overindulgence can be negative.  There is such a thing as too many “good” sugar.

Added “Bad” Sugar

This kind of sugar is exactly how it sounds.  It is manually added to foods during the manufacturing process.  Many processed foods are high in sugar because it improves their taste and of course, leaves us wanting more of it due to sugar’s addictive quality.  A sneaky place to find sugar is in foods that are high in carbohydrates. Sugar is actually a type of carbohydrate, so technically they are one and the same.  If you’re trying to avoid this kind of added sugar, it’s vital to understand the nutrition labels found on your favorite foods.

Understanding Nutrition Labels

The labels on the back of processed foods are there to give us a look at exactly what goes into that specific product.  But sometimes they can cause more confusion. Remember to always look at the serving size that is being represented by the label, and recall that 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon.  The daily recommendation is 6 teaspoons per day. So, if your favorite sweet snack has 24 grams of sugar in it, you’ve already met your daily intake.

Something else to consider is the amount of sugar versus dietary fiber.  Both are considered carbohydrates but the number you want to keep low is sugar.  Dietary fiber is good for digestion and helps us to breakdown the foods we eat.

The nutritional value of the foods we consume can be very confusing with all of the current diet trends going on today. The truth is that everybody is different and no one fad diet will fit all of us.  If you want a full understanding of what kinds of foods you should be consuming, consider a consultation with our Registered Dietician!