Sugar. The good, The Bad, The Ugly.

We all like what we’re eating to taste good, but do we know what is actually being put into some of our foods to make them taste better? Most of the time we can chalk this up to added sugars that are put in foods. We often find these added sugars in foods or beverages that are prepared or processed. These are the kinds of sugars that we want to stay away from, seeing as they can lead to problems such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. With that being said, not all sugars are created equally and we do still need some sugars in our diets to help us maintain a healthy blood sugar level. The key is knowing exactly what kind of sugars we need, and how much of that sugar we need each day.

First, let's start off with what sugars we need to avoid. As I mentioned earlier, added sugars are what we need to be on the lookout for. These are the sugars that cause several health problems for us. Added sugars are found in the form of either sugars or syrups and are added into most processed foods. It’s recommended that we keep our added sugars intake below 10% of the daily calories we consume. However, it has been found that as adults, on average, about 17% of our intake is from added sugars and for kids about 14%. So for us to begin limiting these numbers, we first need to know just what foods contain these added sugars.

Of course when we think of added sugars we immediately think of foods like cookies, cakes, pies, etc. While those do contain a high amount of sugar, there are also several other foods that you might not realize have a high amount of sugar. One of the first foods that is really high in sugar is low fat yogurt. This one might be a bit of a surprise to most of you, seeing as we tend to think of yogurt as a healthy option for us. While most yogurts are good for us, low fat yogurt uses a high amount of sugar to try and enhance the taste of the yogurt. Just one cup of low fat yogurt can contain over 45 grams of sugar, which comes out to about 11 teaspoons of sugar. This amount is more than the daily limit for both men and women. Fruit juices are another item that we tend to think is healthy for us, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Since it takes a lot to produce fruit juice, it contains a lot more sugar than if you were just eating the fruit itself. In fact, some fruit juices can contain as much sugar as a soda. Along with fruit juices, sports drinks are another frequently overlooked source of high sugar. They are packed full with sugars because they are designed to help hydrate and fuel athletes, which is what the sugar is used for by the body. A standard 20 ounce bottle of a sports drink has been found to contain 38 grams of added sugar, which comes out to about 9.5 teaspoons of sugar. Protein bars are another food that contains high amounts of sugars. When people get protein bars they tend to just look at the protein amount, and make their decision based off of that. However, what they don’t realize is that a lot of those protein bars are high in sugar, and may contain up to 20 grams of sugar. So next time you go to pick up some protein bars from the store, make sure you check out how much sugar they contain as well.

Now that we see that some foods that we thought were healthy for us might not actually be as good for us as we thought, we need to know what foods would be good options for us. As I mentioned earlier, there are both good and bad sugars. The trick is just to know which is which. So now that we know some of the bad sugars, lets find out what some of the good sugars are that we can eat.

The first food is fruit, which actually contains two types of sugars. It contains both glucose and fructose. The glucose helps raise the blood sugar in your body and forces the body to use insulin to break it down. While the fructose isn’t used to raise the blood sugar levels, but instead to be metabolized by the body. Beans are another food that contains healthy sugars for us. This isn’t one of the first foods that are thought of when it comes to healthy sugars, but the sugars that are found in beans help to control blood glucose levels. This makes beans a good food item for diabetics and are a great option to add into any diet. Another food that we find that contains good sugars for us are nuts. Nuts in general contain a low amount of sugar as is, but the amount that they do contain is the type of sugar that is good for us. We find the sugar sucrose in nuts, which is then broken down into fructose and glucose. A final food that we can go to for our healthy sugar is whole grains. Since whole grains contain bran and fiber, it helps to slow down the breakdown of glucose. This means that it allows us to get a steady stream of glucose, which helps to regulate our blood sugar levels instead of causing sharp spikes. These sharp spikes in blood sugar tend to come when we consume those added sugars.

As we learned, sugars can be both a good and a bad thing for us. Sugars that are good for us are found in whole foods, and are used to help maintain a steady blood glucose level. Whereas we find added sugars in foods that are premade or processed. These added sugars cause our blood sugar levels to spike rapidly, and then fall just as quickly as they spiked. This makes for us having up and down energy levels, puts us at risk for heart diseases or blood pressure issues, and can lead to an increase in weight and eventually even obesity. I’m not saying we need to completely avoid sugars, but we do need to make sure that we are consuming more of the natural sugars as opposed to the added sugars.

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