Carbohydrates are naturally found in many foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, and many dairy products. Carbohydrates encompass many types of sugars, starches, and fiber. Let’s focus on sugar, which has a pretty bad reputation especially for those individuals trying to lose weight.
RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for men is 36 grams or 150 calories. For women the RDA is 25 grams or 100 calories (4 calories per 1 gram of sugar). To give you an idea of how this fits into your daily caloric intake, here are some commonly eaten sweet treats:
- 1 cup of strawberries = 7 grams
- 1 DD Munchkin = 3 grams
- 12 oz. Mountain Dew = 46 grams
- 1 Panera cinnamon roll = 35 grams
- 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt = 7 grams
- 1 banana = 17 grams
Over consumption, not just of sugar but total calories, can lead to weight gain when not combined with regular exercise or physical activity. Diets high in sugar are linked to a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes especially in conjunction with obesity.
An individual with Type 2 diabetes has an increased resistance to insulin or their body is not producing adequate amounts of insulin. The pancreas produces this hormone (insulin) which regulates the body’s glucose levels. Insulin is released as a result of increased blood glucose levels and help the body metabolize it.
Swapping sugary snacks for those without added sugar or a sugar-free option is a simple way to start. Not only will this reduce your daily sugar intake, but may help with weight loss because of a decrease in the total calories being consumed.
Sugar can be classified into two categories: natural and added. Natural sugars are those that are found naturally in foods such as fruits or milk. Consuming these foods have additional nutritional benefits including fiber, antioxidants, and calcium.
Added sugars are those which have been added to the ingredients of foods and beverages. This includes white sugar, brown sugar, honey, syrup, and any caloric sweeteners (think adding sugar to coffee). Most added sugars in the American diet come from sodas, candy, cookies, cakes, etc. One can of soda can have over 40 grams of sugar- that’s way more than the RDA in just a single drink serving. Note that not all ingredient lists will list “sugar” and it can be found under other names when reading a label. These are some common names for added sugars:
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
If you are interested in learning more about the sugar in your diet, start looking at labels and tracking your food. Apps such as My Fitness Pal and FitBit are useful tools for monitoring your sugar intake. The best recommendation? Moderation! If you would like more information on sugar, it can be found here!
By Louise Mills-Strasser