Educational Articles

Sugar

By: Robert Kron

 

I often have discussions with my clients over sugar. The question inevitability comes back to as to what type of sugar is bad? The simple answer to the question would be to avoid foods that contain added sugar. A few obvious examples of this would be soda, candy and cookies. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? However, sugar can hide in other simple foods. For instance, I read a nutrition label on a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread and the third ingredient listed was sugar. Sugar, in all of its forms, is being used not just as a sweetener but more and more as a preservative. It is everywhere.

Sugar is a carbohydrate. Now, before we go and stop eating all carbohydrates we must understand that carbohydrates are the main fuel source for the body. Eliminating all Carbohydrates would be unhealthy. Our body metabolizes sugar in the liver turning the sugar into a basic form called glycogen. In trying to make chemistry simple, we will just say that as your body breaks sugar into its simplest forms it has a decision to make. Will the body need this for energy now or should it store it as fat to be used later.

Since the body stores sugar, as glycogen, in the liver there is only a small amount of space for the sugar to exist. Once the liver is full, the body will then store the remaining sugar as fat. If I am not exercising, inevitably the body will store all excess sugar as fat. So, then how much sugar should I consume on a daily basis? The American Heart Association (AHA) released a study that suggests that women consume no more than 100 calories and men 150 calories of added sugar a day. For example, we know that one 20 oz bottle of regular soda has 240 calories of added sugar. An easy way to see the amount of sugar in a food is to look at the nutrition label. Directly under the Carbohydrate listing is the sugar listing. The closer the grams of Sugar are to the total grams of carbohydrate you know the carbohydrates are mostly added sugar.

In conclusion, I recommend to all my clients to minimize any additional sugar to the diet. As we have seen, sugar is in everything. If the AHA is telling us that 100 calories for woman and 150 calories for men are the upper limits, then all cookies, soda and candy should be eliminated from our daily consumption. That does not mean we should eliminate naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables and other carbs but that we need to be conscious of our food selections. That is where a tool like the Glycemic Index (GI) can come in very handy. The GI relates all carbs directly to sugar. The closer the number is to 100 the closer it resembles sugar.

For more information on the Glycemic Index read my follow-up article, The Basics of the Glycemic Index. I also recommend the book, Suicide by Sugar by Nancy Appleton, PhD

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