Many of us crave sweets even though we know these foods may not be the healthiest choice. Research shows eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, fatty liver disease, increased inflammation, as well as raised blood pressure. For children especially, too much added sugar increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Is There Healthy Sugar?
There is such a thing as good sugar. The good sugars are those naturally occurring in fruits, milk, plain yogurt, and starchy vegetables. Eating the natural sugars found in these foods is part of a healthy diet. Although the naturally occurring sugars have a chemical structure just like added sugars such as those found in processed foods and baked goods, they are digested more slowly and provide essential nutrients.
Why Natural Sugars Are Good for You
Not only do fruit and starchy vegetables contain sugar, but they also have the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need to stay healthy. For example, if you eat an apple, you will be getting 4 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants.
Limit Added Sugars in Your Diet
There is currently no limit established for natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and milk. The American Heart Association suggests that women limit added sugar in their diet to 100 calories, or 24 grams, per day. This is about 6 teaspoons. Men should consume no more than 150 calories or 36 grams a day of added sugar or 9 teaspoons. Children ages 2-18 should also have limited sugar consumption of 24 grams or 6 teaspoons per day.
Find the Added Sugar
Read food nutrition labels to see if a food has added sugar—this includes ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, sucrose, cane or brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, fruit juice concentrates, molasses, maltose, and dextrose. You will find added sugars listed in grams and can make an informed, healthy decision about your sweets and treats.