Often in my practice, I hear patients saying they are trying to cut down on their sugar intake, something which I am wholeheartedly in support of. The World Health Organization has recommended that adults consume no more than 25 grams (6 tsp) of added sugar every day- which when you think about the fact that sugar is in EVERYTHING is really not very much.
Quaker Maple Brown Sugar oatmeal has 12 grams of sugar (2 tsp) per instant packet and ketchup has 6 grams (1 tsp) sugar per tbsp (and who just uses one tbsp ). Between just those two items children and adults alike could be consuming their daily allowance for added sugar, without even beginning to include the added sugar found in juice, sweetened yogurts, marinades and salad dressings or even pure candy!
Canadians reading nutrition labels and reducing their sugar intake is a great idea- mostly because even while conscious of it, people still often consume more added sugar than is healthy.
But sometimes, there is a next step in the logic that I tend to hear: Sugar is bad for me, fruit has sugar, dairy has sugar, I should reduce my intake of fruit and dairy, or stop eating them all together.
Bow- reducing sugar is great……though reducing your intake of sugar from fruit or dairy may seem to follow, in reality it’s not comparing apples to apples (no pun intended 🙂 ).
Sugar found in large amounts in packaged products can be digested and processed fairly quickly in our liver, causing significant spikes in blood sugar. While our bodies can effectively pull back down blood sugars with the release of insulin, this quick increase and decrease can often leave you tired and hunger, which often brings on another high sugar meal or snack!
Additionally, when your liver can no longer handle the sugar load- it simply converts the remainder to fat to be stored by your body.
There are two important differences when we talk about fruit rather than candy.
1. Though fruit contains a moderate amount of sugar as well, it also contains healthy fiber. Fiber helps to slow digestion, which means your body gets a more steady supply of sugar, rather than a whopping hit. 1 orange also contains only 14 grams of sugar- and when was the last time you sat down to eat more than one orange. 1 cup of juice contains 21 grams of sugar- drinking a second glass….far more likely. Because of the added fiber, fruit is more filling than a couple of handfuls of candy or a glass of juice, making it a lot less likely to over-indulge.
2. Many dairy products contain protein (milk has 8 grams per cup, greek yogurt has 18 for 3/4 cup!) protein also helps to slow digestion, giving your body the time it needs to deal with the small amounts of sugar effectively.
So- bottom line, reducing ADDED sugar in your diet is ALWAYS a great idea. But rather than working to eliminate all sugars, focus on choosing moderate portions of fiber rich fruit, and pairing them with protein packed dairy products to help maintain stable blood sugars.
Try topping greek yogurt with 3/4 cup berries, enjoying a sliced apple with cheese, or making a healthy refreshing greek yogurt pop with mixed fruit
Those protein packed, fiber rich snacks are just the thing for an afternoon snack, and can prevent overeating later on in the day. And that sounds VERY sweet to me 🙂