The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Sugar


It’s Valentines Day! A day packed full of candy and baked goods, and a desire to eat it to your hearts content! I mean, why not? It’s marketed as something that will make us feel wonderful and is good for us, but is it? Let’s dive a little deeper and see what are the goods and bads of sugar. When to cave to the cravings and when it becomes over consumption.

Natural Sugars

Natural sugars are essential to our daily function. They give us energy to get us through the day and fuel our brain. There are all kinds of great foods that are full of natural sugars. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, and carbohydrates are the main natural sources of sugar. Naturals sugars are otherwise known as: fructose, sucrose, glucose, lactose, and maltose. This is why fruit, dairy, and grains are good foods to have in your diet. Natural sugars are good to consume when balanced with a protein to feel fuller, longer. Good examples of natural sugars balanced with a protein would be:

Apples or bananas with peanut butter

Strawberries with yogurt

Cheese and almonds

Fruit and yogurt smoothie

Berries and hard boiled eggs

Added Sugars

Added sugars are the really tasty sugars, the ones our bodies crave. Added sugars are soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, and fruit juices. They are also added to most processed foods and condiments and can do a lot of harm to your body if over consumed. Added sugars are labeled in a tricky manner so you may be unaware that they are in your foods. Most of the time they show up on ingredient labels listed as: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, crystal dextrose, liquid fructose, and more. There is more sugar added to foods today than ever before. This is creating a huge problem in our health. These sugars play a very big role in the growth of type II diabetes, tooth decay, and the current obesity epidemic. Added sugars add a lot of calories to our diets without adding any vitamins or nutrients. What I want to discuss today is a safe amount of these to eat. Let’s look at what is considered too much added sugar.

The 2015- 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans says the most sugar a healthy adult should consume in one day is: 48 g (12 tsp)

That’s:

1 can of soda (39g)

1 bag of Skittles (47g)

2 Snack Cakes (31 g)

2 Yoplait Yogurt cups (48g)

2 Eggo Waffles w ¼ C syrup (40g)

1 protein bar (30g)

16 oz of orange juice (44g)

2 C canned tomato soup (48g)

2 C boxed cereal (40g)

Here is a list of items with well over the Recommended Daily Amount:

Medium McDonalds McFlurry w Oreos (71g)

Starbucks Grande Frappuccino (66g)

20 oz soda (65g)

16 oz energy drink (54g)

16 oz grape juice (72g)

1 pint of ice cream (96g)

16 oz chocolate milk (51g)

These lists are laid out to educate you on items that are extremely high in sugar. Some of these items may seem obvious but what you want to focus on here is the number of grams that are being consumed daily. If you typically eat 2 cups of cereal for breakfast, you’ve nearly met your sugar intake for that day so you need to try and limit added sugars for the rest of the day. Also remember children should only consume 6 teaspoons or less in one day. So if your child consumes a small glass of grape juice for snack, try and limit the amount of added sugar they eat the rest of that day. The goal is to try and stay under or around 48 g to keep your body from developing diseases like diabetes or obesity.

Of course it’s totally ok to consume sugar and have a treat here and there! Just be mindful of the amount you’re eating daily. If you have a true sweet tooth but aren’t sure how to curb the craving without ditching the chocolate or candy, here is a recipe for a healthy sweet treat:

Fresh peaches or canned peaches (canned in water preferably)

½ C Cottage cheese or plain yogurt

Drizzle of honey

A dash of cinnamon (optional)

A drop of vanilla extract (optional)

Mix these items together to replace an ice cream Sunday! Again, it’s ok to have a balanced diet and enjoy a real ice cream Sunday here and there but it’ll do your body good to keep your sugar intake in check.

Happy Valentines Day!

— Jade Mitchell, Nutrition Educator

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