Updated: Jul 15
Is sugar essential and needed for our bodies to function properly? No, but it would seem as if it’s essential since it’s added to so many foods. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy have naturally occurring sugar along with important vitamins, minerals, and fiber depending on the food. The issue is most sugar consumed is from added sugar to processed foods. Sugar, in fact, offers zero nutrients and only contributes empty calories to the diet, but many Americans over consume sugar. As a result, people consuming diets high in sugar are now at higher risk for heart disease and inflammation.
Reduce your risks by reducing sugar
Studies have found those who consume more calories from sugar in their diet compared to those consuming less calories from sugar, are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Excess sugar is converted to fat by the liver, and this can lead to weight gain and contribute to chronic inflammation. Inflammation left out of control can lead to damage in tissues, joints, and blood vessels.
Instead of totally cutting out all sugar from the diet, it’s more important to discuss how to reduce daily sugar intake. Totally cutting out all sugar would include foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Fruits and vegetables are packed full of fiber, and they all contain essential vitamins and minerals the body needs. When reducing sugar, it is important to target the foods with added sugars. Check the food label to learn more about how much sugar the item contains. Under total sugar there is a line for, “added sugar.” Additionally, read through the ingredient list and look for the word “sugar” or any of these other names for it. Sugar is also called: agave, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar molecules ending in “ose”, and syrup.
What is a Healthy Target to Aim for Each Day?
The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 6 teaspoons per day and men no more than 9 teaspoons per day. Since sugar is recorded as grams on food labels, this equates to 24 grams per day for women and about 36 grams per day for men. Reducing daily sugar intake to meet these recommendations is an important step in working towards a healthy and balanced diet.
Authored by Marie Harla, MUSC Dietetic Intern