Sugar goes by many names including, glucose, fructose, lactose, galactose and sucrose. It is found naturally in many foods, including milk and fruit.
It is also added to certain foods during processing to make them sweeter. Major sources of sugar in the American diet include sweetened beverages like soda or fruit juice and it may even be added to snack foods. People even add it directly to foods by sprinkling it onto cereal, or using it in coffee or tea. The problem with too much sugar, is that it can increase the risk of many chronic disease states, such as diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver and cancer.
You can eliminate excess sugar in the diet by looking at the ingredient list on food packaging. When sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients, consider an alternative. Try to avoid ingredients such as brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, dextrose, fructose or white granulated sugar. Sugar alcohols and high intensity sweeteners are commonly used to sweeten gum, beverages, and foods without the calorie load and are an alternative to sugar. They are much sweeter, so less is needed to get the desired level of sweetness. They also contain significantly less calories and in many cases are calorie free, when compared to sugar. High intensity sweeteners go by the name saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, and steviol glycosides. Sugar alcohol may also be used to sweeten foods and beverages without the calories. Sugar alcohols commonly recognized include xylitol, mannitol or sorbitol. These additives and substitutes are considered safe when consumed within daily levels established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); however, may contribute to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and gas due to lack of absorption and fermentation in the gut. At the center of every diet recommended for weight loss or disease management, is reducing excess sugar. The US News and World report just released their recommendation on top diets for 2020 after a panel of health experts provided input on 35 possible choices. To be top rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe and effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease. The number one recommended diet overall is the Mediterranean diet, 2nd place was given to the DASH diet and 3rd place was awarded to the Flexetarian diet. One consistent finding amongst all three, was reduction of excess sugars. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 10% of calories come from added sugars. This means out of a 2000 calorie diet, only 100 calories should come from excess sugar! You can eliminate excess sugar in the diet by looking at the ingredient list on food packaging and using recipes without added sugars. When any form of sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients in a food, consider an alternative. Try to avoid ingredients such as brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, dextrose, fructose or white granulated sugar. Sugar substitutes are considered safe in small amounts but may be poorly tolerated. Fresh fruit is also a great alternative to both to sweeten beverages or other foods like yogurt.
Written by Rachel Sawyers, PA-C, RD
References: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Handouts and Tip Sheets: Eating Right with Less Added Sugars. January 14, 2020. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/handouts-and-tip-sheets.
Food and Drug Administration: High intensity sweeteners. January 16, 2020. Webpage. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/high-intensity-sweeteners.
U.S. News Best Diets Rankins for 2019. January 14, 2020. News Release. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall.