The Low-Down on Added Sugars

Sugar is a carbohydrate that comes in many forms. There are added sugars like table sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, and then there are natural sugars found in fruit and milk.

  • Natural sugars found in fruit  are called fructose
  • Natural sugars found in milk are called lactose

Eating sugar does not cause diabetes but eating too much can lead to unhealthy weight gain which can put you at a higher risk for becoming diabetic. Naturally occurring sugars in whole foods do not cause the rapid rise in blood sugar that added sugars do. When reading a food label, you want to evaluate the first three items listed under ingredients. If  one of the first three ingredients is a type of added sugar, the food is most likely high in unhealthful sugar and should be eaten in moderation or avoided altogether. Cutting back on sugar is an important part of a healthful diet, along with cutting back on refined starches and fruit juice.

Common Added Sugars:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Malt syrup
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Invert syrup
  • Table sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Molasses
  • Syrup
  • Honey
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Sucrose

These added sugars are commonly seen in sugar sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies, pies, sweetened dairy products, and candy.

What about Sugar Alcohols? These are substances used to sweeten food that are not considered sugars. Products that contain sugar alcohols are marketed as “sugar-free” due to their chemical make-up. Sugar alcohols are lower in calories and don’t effect blood sugar as much as the alternatives (added sugars).

  • Examples of sugar alcohol are:
    • Erythritol
    • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
    • hydrogenated starch
    • isomalt
    • lactitol
    • maltitol
    • mannitol
    • sorbitol
    • xylitol

Disclaimer on sugar alcohols – they have been shown to have a negative effect on your GI tract  – nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pains, so definitely stay away if you are predisposed to gastrointestinal issues like IBS or Crohns.

As a Dietitian, I do not like consuming large amounts of  added sugars or sugar alcohols. I do include the recommended amount of fruit, low-fat dairy products, and complex carbohydrates in my diet that I consume from whole food products which would be classified as naturally occurring sugars. Sugar is not toxic and should not be avoided at all costs, food items that contain naturally occurring sugars are needed by the body to function properly and provide needed vitamins and minerals. Just avoid he added junk that won’t benefit you in the long run.

To conclude: foods and beverages that are high in added sugars and low in nutrients can displace nutrient-rich foods in the diet so that it becomes difficult for people to meet the recommended intake for other needed macronutrients and micronutrients.

Choose nutrient-rich foods over high-sugar foods.

Cinthia Scott, RD, LD, CNSC

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