Sugar is a carbohydrate that is present naturally in fruits and vegetables. Sugar (in the form of glucose) is an important energy source needed by the cells in the body.
Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex. The difference between the two forms is the chemical structure and how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested. Simple carbs are usually digested and absorbed more quickly and easily than complex carbs.
Simple carbohydrates contain one or two sugars; they include monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are single sugars such as fructose, which are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Disaccharides contain two sugars; examples include sucrose (fructose plus glucose), which is found in table sugar, and lactose (glucose plus galactose), which is found in milk. Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides, which contain three or more sugars. They are often referred to as starchy foods and are found in foods such as beans, peas, peanuts, potatoes, corn, whole-grain breads and cereals.
Sugars can be classified as “naturally occurring/intrinsic”, which refers to sugars that are an integral part of whole fruit, vegetable and milk products. They can also be “added/extrinsic”, which refers to sugars that are added to foods during processing or preparation. Studies suggest that increased intake of “added sugars” may lead to an elevation of blood pressure, an increase in blood cholesterol and may lead to weight gain.
The glycemic index ranks food on a scale from 0 to 100 based on how quickly and how much they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Low-glycemic foods have a rating of 55 or less, medium-level foods have a rating of 56-69 and foods rated 70-100 are considered high-glycemic foods. Foods with a low glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested slowly, inciting a more gradual rise in blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, are rapidly digested and cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar. Eating many high-glycemic-index foods cause powerful spikes in blood sugar and can lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. You can use the glycemic search index below to find out the ratings of various foods, http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php.
The American Heart Association suggests an “added-sugar” limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men.
You can get an idea of whether a food is high in free sugars by looking at the ingredients list on the packaging. If you see sugar near the top of the list, the food is likely to be high in free sugars. Below is a list of other names used to describe sugar added to food and drinks.
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrates
High-fructose corn syrup
REDUCING SUGAR IN DRINKS
Instead of sodas and other sweet juices, choose water, sugar-free, or no-added-sugar drinks. Soft drinks are a leading source of extra calories that can contribute to weight gain and provide no nutritional benefits.
Limit the amount of sweet drinks you have to no more than 150ml a day (almost half of 1 cup).
Try diluting sweet drinks with water (or ice).
Cut the amount of sugar you add to hot drinks by half, and then gradually reduce from there.
REDUCING SUGAR IN FOOD
Check nutrition labels to help you choose foods with less added sugar.
Choose fruits canned in water and avoid fruits canned in syrup. (Drain and rinse canned fruits to remove excess syrup or juice.)
Choose unsweetened cereals that aren't frosted, or coated with chocolate or honey. Instead, try adding some fruit for sweetness such as sliced bananas and berries.
Try reducing the sugar you use in your recipes. When baking you can cut the sugar in your recipe by one-third to one-half. (You may not notice the difference.)
Try using extracts for flavoring. Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use extracts like almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar. Try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
In conclusion, to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and decrease cardiovascular risk, while at the same time meeting essential nutrient needs, it is important to consume an overall healthy diet that contains: lots of fruits and vegetables, some grains, nuts and beans and a small amount of meat.
I hope these tips on SUGAR were helpful; remember YOUR HEALTH IS INVALUABLE!
Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew
American Heart Association
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