Nutrition expert debunks sugar myths

1 Apr
Meg is epicurious and has a strong passion for cooking healthy meals on a budget. Her passion for food and nutrition stems from a young age with exposure to cuisine from various cultures. Originally from New York, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida to receive a bachelor's degree in Dietetics at the Florida State University. Upon graduating, She took one step further to become a nutrition expert in the dietetics field. She is currently a graduate student studying Clinical Nutrition at the Florida State University with the intent of becoming a Registered Dietitian post-grad. She believes that food has a unique ability to bond people from around the world, to create new relationships, and to cement old friendships. She aims to share her nutrition knowledge with others and to encourage healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition.

Meg is epicurious and has a strong passion for cooking healthy meals on a budget. Her passion for food and nutrition stems from a young age with exposure to cuisine from various cultures. Originally from New York, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida to receive a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at the Florida State University. Upon graduating, She took one step further to become a nutrition expert in the dietetics field. She is currently a graduate student studying Clinical Nutrition at the Florida State University with the intent of becoming a Registered Dietitian post-grad. She believes that food has a unique ability to bond people from around the world, to create new relationships, and to cement old friendships. She aims to share her nutrition knowledge with others and to encourage healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition.

Meg Khan-Karen is a guest blogger for Layman’s Terms Media. Periodically she will post thoughtful articles about leading a healthy lifestyle on a budget. Check out her Facebook page Daily Fit Dish by MegKKFit for healthy recipes at a reasonable price.

By: Meg Khan-Karen, Nutrition expert

“Sugar is poison.” This has been engrained in our minds since childhood. As children, we were often told to avoid eating too much sugar because it would rot our teeth, make us hyper, give us nightmares—the list goes on. More and more, we are bombarded with new food products that are marketed as being all-natural or ‘healthy’. However, one look at the nutrition label and it becomes clear that this is not so.

 

These products are filled with added sugars and other nasty fillers that our body can do without. From a young age, we have been taught to believe that sugar is harmful for our bodies, but how much truth is there to this claim?

Allow me to debunk the ‘sugar-is-the-devil’ mayhem for you.

Sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates, which your body needs in order to function on a daily basis.  Sugars are naturally found in foods such as fruits and dairy products. These types of sugars are called simple sugars. Other foods such as vegetables and grains contain complex carbohydrates, both of which your body can break down for readily available energy when needed.

 

These carbohydrates allow our brains to function at optimal capacity and provide us with the energy to fulfill daily tasks, whether it be studying for exams, running errands, or training for the local 5K. Sugars from fresh, whole foods keep us healthy and strong. Therefore, not all sugars are bad for you. Without these carbohydrates, we would feel lethargic and unable to function to our best ability.

 

Here is where the confusion about sugar arises. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has defined ‘added sugars’ as ingredients in processed and prepared foods (such as breads, cakes, soft drinks, jam, and ice cream) and sugars eaten separately or added to foods at the table.1 These types of sugars come from either fruits or vegetables, but have been processed into a product that is unrecognizable as a whole food source. Such added sugars in our diets have been shown to account for the rise in obesity as well as a higher prevalence of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Reducing your daily intake of added sugars can lead to a decreased risk of acquiring such diseases as well as alleviating health problems such as inflammation, irritability, poor immune system and possibly even some types of cancers.

 

Today, a greater majority of Americans are consuming added sugars in the form of sugar-laden beverages like sodas or as hidden preservatives subtly placed into various packaged food products lining grocery store shelves. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average American consumes 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar from table sugar or processed foods per day, which can amass to an extra 355 calories each day.2  This can lead to unfavorable changes in your waistline while also increasing your risk of obesity and acquiring other harmful diseases.

 

Currently, the American Heart Association suggests women should consume no more than 100 calories, or about 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.  For men, the suggestion is 150 calories, or 9 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Consider this: One 12 oz. can of Coca Cola contains a whopping 39 grams of sugar, which is equal to 9.75 teaspoons. This is more than the American Heat Association’s suggestion for both women and men.

 

Eliminating added sugars from your diet may seem like a daunting task, as they are found in nearly every processed food product on the market. However, decreasing your consumption is the first step to building a healthier body and a brighter future.

 

Here are some tips to get you started in eliminating added sugars in your diet:

  • check nutrition label ingredient lists for words that end in ‘-ose’ such as maltose, sucrose, dextrose, and high fructose corn syrup as well as brown sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, malt syrup, pancake syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrates, and corn sweeteners, all of which are added sugars
  • avoid adding white sugar to your foods and beverages like coffee or tea.
  • stick with the whole fruit – instead of a glass of juice, grab an orange or an apple
  • look for “no sugar added” or “low sugar” options and if necessary, consider canned fruits packed in water
  • when baking, cut the sugar requirement in half or consider a replacement such as unsweetened applesauce or mashed fruit, such as a banana
  • check the labels of packaged products such as salad dressings, tomato sauces, cereals, yogurts, and of course treats and candies
  • consider natural, plant-based sweeteners such as Stevia or Agave syrup

References:

(1)   Johnson, R. K., & Yon, B. A. (2010). Weighing in on Added Sugars and Health. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(9), 1296.

(2)   Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands M, et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009; 120:1011-20.

(3)   Harvard School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet. Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/

 

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