Low Sugar - Diets
Carolyn Classick-Kohn,MS,RD

Sugar has been on trial for everything from bad grades in school to diabetes. While it's true that many people overindulge in sweets, the evils of sugar have been overstated. What is the role of sugar in a healthy diet for fitness and weight control?

Some Myths

  1. "Sugar causes diabetes". No! Diabetes is a disease of energy metabolism, and has many causes. The main problem in diabetes is that the body fails to produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose in a normal range. Some people have no insulin production, others have some, but not enough, and some people's bodies aren't able to use the insulin it has to get into the cells to perform the work it needs to. But eating sugar doesn't create the disease. This myth leads to another myth:

  2. "People with diabetes can't eat sugar". People with diabetes learn to control their blood sugar with diet, exercise, weight control, and insulin or other medications. Sugar and other carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels, but by eating these foods in the right amounts and learning how to regulate their own blood sugar levels, people with diabetes can enjoy the same foods that everyone else does. Sugar is a treat in a healthy diet, not a mainstay.

  3. Raw sugar and brown sugar is better than cane sugar. Basically, brown sugar, white sugar and raw sugar have about the same effect upon the body and similar nutrient values. They are all sweeteners with very low nutrient values. Honey is stickier, so it actually is worse on teeth and gums, but it may have a greater sweetening effect (so you might use less of it to get the same sweetness in a food). 

Some Truths

  1. Sugar (if you use the glycemic index) raises blood sugar levels at about the same rate as beets, pineapple, whole wheat bread, and shredded wheat. The difference is that all of these other foods have high nutritional value and sugar does not. 

  2. The typical diet in wealthy countries is quite high in sugar. About 20% of calories consumed in the U.S. comes from sugar. A healthy goal for sugar consumption is 10% of calories or less - a 50% reduction!

  3. Sugar has the same caloric value of other carbohydrates: 4 Calories per gram. A teaspoon of sugar contains 15 Calories.


It Adds Up

The two main problems with sugar is that it can adds up quickly to a lot of calories and to low nutritional intake.  People who replace their high nutrition carbohydrates (grains, beans, vegetables, fruits) with sugar are getting poorer nutrition. And, those who eat a lot of sugar containing foods in addition to their healthy foods will gain weight from the extra calories.  

The calories and grams of carbohydrates from foods high in sugar add up more quickly than potatoes, pastas, beans, rice and other carbohydrates because:

  • Sugar is a very concentrated source of carbohydrate - so it's easier to eat more calories.

  • Sugar has a very pleasant taste - it is overeaten out of enjoyment and for comfort.

  • Sugar keeps bad company. Many foods high in sugar are also high in fats - pastry, cookies, ice cream.

Sugar is often consumed as beverages - sodas, juices, punch, etc. It's easy to get too much sugar!

Cutting Back 

Enjoy sweets as a nice treat. In your diet plan, and in the member's area  you are given many ways to cut back on sugar and fats. Review your sources of sugar - what can you do to replace these foods and not feel deprived? Each time that you make a healthy substitution, you are one step closer to your goal. New recipes and snacks lead to new ways of eating - give them a try!

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