Weighing In: I want to reduce my sugar intake, what should I cut out?

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • Question: I’m trying to cut down on my sugar consumption but so many healthy foods like fruit and milk have sugar. Should I avoid those foods too? How much sugar should I eat per day?

    Heather:
    There are many different kinds of sugars, some are added to foods and some occur naturally in foods like fruit and milk. Three common kinds of sugar in our diet are fructose, which is in fruit; lactose, which is in milk; and sucrose, found in table sugar.

    Many healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, grains and milk have sugar, but these are naturally occurring sugars. For example, one serving of fruit, such as an apple, has 15 grams of sugar and one eight-ounce glass of milk has 13 grams of sugar. Cutting out these foods will decrease your sugar consumption, but you will also decrease your intake of many other healthy nutrients.

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    It is generally recommended that you limit sugar to 10% of your total daily grams of carbohydrate. Someone on a 2000-calorie diet should eat approximately 300 grams of carbohydrate and no more than 30 grams of sugar per day.

    The main difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars are nutrient value. Naturally occurring sugars tend to be high in nutrients and low in calories while processed foods, which are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet, are low in nutrients and very high in calories. Foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients are often referred to as empty calories because eating them doesn’t provide any nutritional benefit.

    If you are trying to decrease your sugar consumption, you should focus on added sugars. These sugars are found in processed foods, such as regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, ice cream, sweetened yogurt, sweetened milk, and pastries.

    Unfortunately, the food label does not list of how many grams of sugar in a food item are from added sugar and how many occur naturally, so you need to look at the ingredient list. Other words for added sugar include:
    •    Brown Sugar
    •    Corn Sweetener
    •    Corn Syrup
    •    Dextrose
    •    Fruit Juice Concentrates
    •    Glucose
    •    High-fructose Corn Syrup
    •    Honey
    •    Malt Syrup
    •    Molasses
    •    Raw Sugar
    •    Sucrose
    •    Sugar
    •    Syrup

    Artificial sweeteners, like Spenda, Sweet and Low and Equal, can help reduce your sugar intake. However, it’s also important to remember that carbohydrate, including sugar, is the main energy source for your body. And moderate amounts of sugar are part of a healthy diet.

Published On: August 24, 2008