SSM Health Medical Minute: Added sugar vs sugar naturally occurring in foods

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - There’s a lot of talk about sugar these days. Diets like the Whole 30 say you need to cut it out completely. Even the federal government is mandating by 2018, pre-packaged food include how much added sugar is in each serving, in addition to the total sugar in the serving.

How bad is sugar, though?

Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. It provides calories with no added nutrients and can damage your metabolism in the long run. Eating too much sugar is linked to weight gain and various diseases like obesity, type II diabetes and heart disease.

Dr. Julie Sahrmann, DO and SSM Health Family Physician, notes the difference between added sugar and sugar naturally occurring in foods like fruit. It is very important to make the distinction between added sugars and sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables. These are healthy foods that contain water, fiber and various micronutrients. The naturally occurring sugars are absolutely fine. However, added sugars are those that are added to foods. The most common added sugars are regular table sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup. If you want to lose weight and optimize your health, then you should do your best to avoid foods that contain added sugars.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:

Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons).
Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).

To put that into perspective, one 12oz can of coke contains 140 calories from sugar, while a regular sized snickers bar contains 120 calories from sugar. Dr. Sahrmann says to start with removing sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, diet colas, and sweetened teas.

If you are healthy, lean and active, these seem like reasonable amounts. You’ll probably burn off these small amounts of sugar without them causing you much harm. But it’s important to note that there is no need for added sugars in the diet. They don’t serve any physiological purpose. The less you eat, the healthier you will be.

To learn more about Dr. Sahrmann, click here.