So, What is Sugar? Sugar is one of three kinds of carbohydrates... the other two are starches and fiber. In food, sugar is classified as either natural or added. Examples of naturally occurring sugars would be such things like the lactose in milk, fructose in fruit, honey, vegetables, and maltose in beer. Added sugars come from corn, beets, grapes, and sugar cane, which are processed before being added to foods. However, our bodies cannot tell the difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars because they are identical in their chemical makeup. Food that has naturally occurring sugars DO provide vitamins and minerals, BUT still accounts for high calorie count. Food containing added sugars provide mainly calories and very few vitamins and minerals... and therefore are referred to as "empty calories." On the Nutrition Facts panel of a food label, "sugars" include both added AND naturally occurring sugars. But, on the ingredient list, only added sugars are listed. Added sugars would be ingredients like corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrins, granulated sugar, invert sugar, and concentrated fruit juice sweetener.
How Much Sugar Does a Person Need on a Daily Basis? Zip. Zero. Zilch. Although our bodies DO need about 130 grams of carbohydrates per day for energy and other necessary functions of the body to be healthy, we don't need to get ANY of those carbohydrates from sugar. We can rely on starches and fiber to meet that daily requirement. Important Side Note: For anyone reading this who is on (or is considering) a "low-carb diet", please make sure that your definition of "low" isn't too low. You seriously NEED some good carbs in your diet every day (as I stated above: 130 grams daily is a good number; and more if you are active/exercise). Without that essential amount of daily carbs, you will begin to feel sluggish, grouchy, and lethargic. Yes, you'll probably lose weight on a low-carb diet... but who wants to be around an irritable, skinny person?! :o)
Food and Drinks that are High in Sugar: So, what should you avoid if you want to flee from the Evil Sugar Devil? Soda is the #1 culprit; followed by sweetened fruit drinks. Also at the top of the list are sweets such as candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, cereal, breakfast bars, donuts, muffins... (takes a deep breath)... pastries, honey, flavored milk, flavored coffee (yep, that includes your endearing, sweet Starbucks drink), yogurt, pancakes and syrup, frosting... I could go on, but it's just too depressing.
NOW, is artificial sweetener a good substitute for sugar? As far as calorie count -- yes. But as far as being "better" for you... hmm, that's very debatable. Both have their long list of cons.
So, next time you go to the grocery store, and you're ready to cut back on those Ever-So-Yummy Sugary Items from your diet, just start flipping over those packages and reading some labels. Look closely at the "sugars" line, and keep that number as close to zero grams as possible! Will you have withdrawals while you are learning to lessen the amount of sugar you're ingesting? Probably. But, this too shall pass... and most likely sooner than you think! Give it a try! And maybe I will, too! Maybe. ;o)
I leave you with this:
Smiles and blessings -- Tonya
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