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Choose natural sugars to fuel your body

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Food City Registered Dietitian • Aug 1, 2018 at 4:30 PM

Sugar often gets a bad reputation, but it is actually very important to body functioning. Sugar, or glucose, is the body’s primary energy source to fuel the brain and other body processes. Sugars come in different forms in food, specifically naturally occurring or added sugars. Natural sugars are found in foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and dairy. Added sugars are not naturally occurring, but are put into foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table.

The major sources of added sugars in the typical American diet are soft drinks, candy, desserts and fruit drinks. One regular soda contains, on average, about 16 packets of sugar. Even natural sources of sugar like honey or concentrated fruit juice are considered “added” when they are put into foods that don’t normally contain them.

How much added sugar is recommended? No more than 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of added sugar is recommended per day for women and 9 teaspoons or 36 grams for men. One teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams or one sugar packet. Many of us consume more added sugar than we realize. Too much added sugars can contribute to extra calories without delivering a whole lot of valuable nutrients.

Reading the nutrition facts panel can help you compare grams of sugar in beverages and plain food products versus flavored products. For example, plain yogurt is made up of natural sugars with about 6 to 8 grams of sugar per serving, while a serving of vanilla or strawberry yogurt increases the sugar content to over 20 grams. An easy way to reduce added sugar is to buy the plain version instead of flavored. Then, add your own fruit or sweeteners to taste.

Another danger of sugary beverages is that they typically replace water consumption, leading to dehydration. Proper hydration is one of the most important aspects of healthy living, especially when performing physical activity or when you will be outdoors for long periods of time. Infusing water with fruits and vegetables is a great way to liven up the taste and also adds water-soluble vitamins!

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN is a Food City Registered Dietitian.

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