Which Sugars Are Good For You And Which Ones To Avoid
Sugar often gets a bad rap, but it shouldnt in all cases. Heres how natural, added, and artificial sugars differ in how they affect your health.
Theres plenty of evidence that a high-sugar diet can come with damaging health risks. For example, too much added sugar has been linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, reduced good cholesterol, inflammation, insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and heart disease. A study published in August 2017 in BMJ Openfound that cutting back on sugar may save you money, as the aforementioned diseases are associated with high medical bills.
None of this suggests all sugar is bad. But the sugars found in a can of cola are not the same as those in a cup of fresh berries.
What Are Sugar Alcohols And Are They A Healthy Sugar Swap
Sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, are added to foods to give them a sweet taste as an alternative to regular sugar. This article reviews what sugar alcohols are, how they affect health, and the downsides to consider if you choose to add them to your diet.
In moving toward a healthier way of eating, many people reduce their intake of added sugars.
This has led to a surge in the popularity of sugar substitutes, such as sugar alcohols.
Sugar alcohols are added to foods, including baking mixes, cereals, and ice cream, to give them a sweet taste without the negative side effects associated with regular sugar.
Theyre healthier alternatives to regular sugar, but some people may wonder how they affect the body and whether they cause any side effects.
This article reviews what sugar alcohols are, how they affect health, and the downsides to consider if you choose to add them to your diet.
Sugar alcohols are about 25100% as sweet as sugar, but theyre lower in calories and dont have the same negative effects as regular sugar, such as promoting tooth decay and significantly raising blood sugar levels .
Theyre considered low digestible carbs, meaning that when you eat them, your small intestine doesnt completely absorb them. Instead, they travel to your large intestine, where bacteria ferment them.
Fiber and resistant starch are also considered low digestible carbs.
Sugar alcohols differ in taste, calorie content, and the way they affect the body.
What Is Added Sugar
When we talk about sugar in the context of your health, we arent talking about those sweet strawberries you tossed on your salad for lunch. Sugar thats naturally occurring in food isnt an issue, says Turner.
If you eat a piece of fruit, for example, youre not only consuming sugar , but also fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. All of these things help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut and help your body metabolize the sugar found in the fruit. Instead of craving more and more sugar, youll stay satiated for a longer period without the massive blood sugar spikes from consuming a treat with a bunch of refined sugar, she says.
The real problem is added sugar that manufacturers put in food during the production process, either to sweeten it or enhance the flavor in some other way, says Michael Schwartz, M.D., director of the UW Medicine Diabetes Institute and the Nutrition Obesity Research Center.
There arent really many sources of pure sugar in nature, he says. And so whats different about table sugar is that we’re getting a dose of it in a pure form. That is not something that we evolved to do.
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Are Certain Types Of Sugars Healthier Than Others
- By Vasanti Malik, ScD, Contributor
Most people consume many different types of sugars from a variety of foods and beverages in their diet. A high intake of sugar is linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. But whether some sugars are healthier than others remains a question of interest to many.
You Should Cut Out Sugar From Your Life Completely
You dont need to cut added sugar out of your life completely. Different health organizations have different recommendations for the amount of sugar you should limit yourself per day. But they all agree that theres room for some sugar in a healthy diet.
75 percent of Americans eat more sugar than they should, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Not sure whether youre one of them? Try logging your food intake in a food-tracking app for a few days. That can give you a sense of how much sweet stuff youre actually eating and make it easier to eat less added sugar.
If youre overdoing it, cutting back doesnt have to be painful. Instead of swearing off your favorite sweet treats, try having smaller portions. After all, there are half as many grams of sugar in half a cup of ice cream compared to a whole cup, Fear says.
Keep an eye on packaged foods, too. Things like bread, flavored yogurt, cereal, and even tomato sauce can all have more added sugar than you might expect. So pay attention to nutrition labels and look for options thatll help you stay within your daily sugar limit.
study that followed more than 350,000 adults for over a decade found that added sugar consumption was not linked to an increased risk for death.
As long as you dont overdo it.
While a moderate amount of sugar doesnt seem to be harmful, having too much can put you at risk for gaining weight. But so can having too many potato chips, too much cheese, or even too much brown rice.
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Labels On The Back Of Packaging
It’s important to look for the “of which sugars” figure on nutrition labels, which is part of the carbohydrate information.
While this does not tell you the amount of free sugars, it’s a useful way of comparing labels and can help you choose foods that are lower in sugar overall.
Look for the “Carbohydrates of which sugars” figure on the nutrition label.
Products are considered to either be high or low in sugar if they fall above or below the following thresholds:
- high: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
- low: 5g or less of total sugars per 100g
If the amount of sugars per 100g is between these figures, that’s regarded as a medium level.
The “of which sugars” figure describes the total amount of sugars from all sources free sugars, plus those from milk, and those present in fruit and vegetables.
For example, plain yoghurt may contain as much as 8g per serving, but none of these are free sugars, as they all come from milk.
The same applies to an individual portion of fruit. An apple might contain around 11g of total sugar, depending on the size of the fruit selected, the variety and the stage of ripeness.
But sugar in fruit is not considered free sugars unless the fruit is juiced or puréed.
This means food containing fruit or milk will be a healthier choice than one containing lots of free sugars, even if the 2 products contain the same total amount of sugar.
You can tell if the food contains lots of added sugars by checking the ingredients list.
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Added Versus Natural Sugars
An increasingly important distinction among sugars as they pertain to health is whether they occur naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and dairy, or whether they are added sugars, added to foods and beverages during manufacturing, processing, or preparation.
Sugary beverages are the greatest source of added sugar in the diet, followed by sweets and grains such as ready-to-eat cereals. Intake of added sugar, particularly from beverages, has been associated with weight gain, and higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Natural and added sugars are metabolized the same way in our bodies. But for most people, consuming natural sugars in foods such as fruit is not linked to negative health effects, since the amount of sugar tends to be modest and is “packaged” with fiber and other healthful nutrients. On the other hand, our bodies do not need, or benefit from, eating added sugar.
The 20152020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the World Health Organization both recommend that added sugar be limited to no more than 10% of daily calories. The updated Nutrition Facts Panel, expected to be rolled out in 2020 or 2021, will prominently feature a line disclosing added sugar along with the corresponding 10% daily value, to help consumers gauge their added sugar intake.
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Depending On The Foods You Choose And The Amount Of Physical Activity You Do Each Day You May Have Calories Leftover For Extras Such As:
- Eating additional foods from a food group above your daily recommendation.
- Selecting a food thats higher in fat or contains added sugars .
- Adding dressing or sauce to a food.
- Eating dessert.
The American Heart Association recommendations for a heart-healthy eating pattern will help you to focus on the essentials first.
What Are Sugar Alcohols
Despite the name, sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol. They are a special type of carbohydrate that has a similar chemical structure to sugar. It tastes sweet but has fewer calories.
Most sugar alcohols are artificially made, although some are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They are not fully digested by the body, which is why they are sweet but have minimal blood sugar impact. Plus, each serving contains fewer calories than sugar .
Examples of sugar alcohols include maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, lactitol, glycerol, and erythritol. They almost always end in -ol on a nutrition label.
Eating sugar alcohols is safe in moderation. Its recommended to have between 10 to 15 grams per day. However, eating too much can cause unpleasant side effects. Theyre considered low-digestible carbs, meaning that when you eat them, your small intestine doesnt completely absorb them. Instead, they travel to your large intestine, where bacteria ferment them.
In this researchers gave study participants either sugar or one of two kinds of sugar alcohol .
Side effects included:
The study participants who were given sugar experienced no such side effects.
Sugar alcohols can also cause a laxative effect, especially if youre prone to stomach issues.
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Potential Health Benefits Of Maple Sugar
Maple sugar can be a good source of nutrients and a healthier alternative to other sweeteners. This can depend on its source, however. Make sure to look for unrefined sugar made from pure maple syrup, as maple flavoring and other additives can reduce its nutritional value.
Pure maple sugar may offer health benefits over other sugars, including:
Maple sugar contains many antioxidants, compounds that help fight and reverse cell damage in our bodies. One of these antioxidants, quebecol, is only found in pure maple products. One study found quebecol killed cervical, ovarian, breast, and colon cancer cells, and may behave similarly to a common chemotherapy drug.
More research is needed to confirm these findings, but studies support the anti-inflammatory and immune system boosting effects of antioxidants found in maple sugar.
Less Stress on the Liver
Improves Gut Health
Maple sugar contains inulin, a complex carbohydrate that has prebiotic properties. Researchers believe it may work with maple sugarâs antioxidants and nutrients to encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
This balance of bacteria helps to support a healthy immune system and can protect the body against health issues like chronic inflammation.
Lower Risk of Blood Sugar Spikes
Your Weight And Sugar
Eating too much sugar can contribute to people having too many calories, which can lead to weight gain.
For a healthy, balanced diet, we should get most of our calories from other kinds of foods, such as starchy foods and fruits and vegetables, and only eat foods high in free sugars occasionally or not at all.
The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat should come from each of the main food groups in order to have a healthy, balanced diet.
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Ingredients Don’t Always Match The Bottle
What’s more concerning is that the amount of certain ingredients in gummy vitamins may not match the numbers listed on the back of the bottle, according to experts.
We find that there are many more quality problems with gummies than there are with tablets or capsules,” said Cooperman. Tests done by ConsumerLab have found that many gummy supplements do not actually contain the amount of vitamin that it claims to have on the label, Cooperman added.
What gummies are made from allows the ingredients to lose potency faster than pills, Cooperman said, adding, “Thats a problem even with tablets over time, but theyre more stable.”
“Companies realize that things are breaking down faster in gummies … so theyre putting in twice as much, three times as much when theyre making the products,” said Cooperman.
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