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7 Things everyone should know about sugar

Close your eyes and imagine how wonderful honey tastes on your imagine how wonderful it must have been to have discovered the taste of cane sugar for the first time! No bees, just sweetness on your tongue!

Sugar has come a long way from being the new discovery that replaced honey in the earliest days of civilization to becoming the culprit in a variety of medical conditions. Our Nation’s struggle with Sugar has rendered us obese, sick and tired!

As sweet as it can be, the dangers of taking in too much sugar far outweighs the benefits in taste. With that said, enjoying a little sugar now and then puts a smile on one's face, but too much can put you at risk for obesity, inflammation, chronic disease, dental decay and death.

It is possible to enjoy the sweetness AND enjoy good health!

Let's discuss 7 things that everyone should know about sugar to help us keep this wonderful commodity in balance!

1. Recommended Daily Dose of Sugar

How much sugar is too much?

We often unknowingly consume more than is recommended in a day, and often in one sitting! How do you know when you are likely to tip the scales?

Let’s find out!

The American Heart Association, AHA, maximum recommendation of daily sugar intake for women is 100 calories. This is roughly 25 grams of sugar per day and about six teaspoons. For men, the recommended intake for daily consumption is no more than 150 calories, this too amounting to 38 grams and about nine teaspoons.

A teaspoon of sugar is approximately 4.2 grams.

Did you know that an 8 ounce glass of orange juice has about 5.5 teaspoons of sugar, you’ll be taking over 22 grams of sugar in a drink, almost a full day’s allowance of sugar!

What? You mean that orange juice is not good for me?

While orange juice has a lot of great nutrients, it is always better to eat the whole orange. When we remove the fiber the sugar breaks down more quickly. So it is best to keep orange juice to 4 ounces or less at a time and only once a day.

For children, the recommended total is set at 3 teaspoons per day, which is roughly 12 grams. A cup of fruit loops has 3.75 teaspoons, more than your kids should normally take all day!

Cereal typically has a lot of sugar and then we add milk and sugar to the cereal. One bowl of Cheerios, with whole milk and a teaspoon of sugar has 6 grams of sugar. That is only if you are eating plain ole Cheerios. The other varieties have a lot more sugar!

Statistics from the Obesity Society has shown that intake of sugar has increased over the past three decades by as much as 30 percent.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s statistics of sugar consumption in the US from 2011 through to 2014 showed that the average American children consume about 143 calories per day (almost 9 teaspoons), and adults at about 145 calories (9 teaspoons) mostly sourced from sugar-sweetened beverages. (Soda, Juice, Sweet Tea, Coffee drinks, etc.)

This is alarming! Adult Onset Diabetes was renamed Type 2 Diabetes because our children are now being diagnosed with this disease, which is directly related to diet.

Even though there has been a lot of effort to educate the public about the dangers of too much sugar, a lot still needs to be done to tame our sugar driven society so we do not lose the battle against obesity and chronic disease.

2. How to Read Labels for Sugars

Labels are tricky, even when you have an idea what you are looking for. Unfortunately, that is what the food industry is counting on, is the public being confused.

Without a clear understanding of the labeling, it can be quite hard to spot the presence of added sugars or know exactly how much is naturally occurring sugar, as opposed to added sugar.

It’s common for manufacturers to use different kinds, and names, of sugars. This makes it very difficult for a consumer to determine the amount of added sugar in a food product.

If you remember from earlier newsletter, quality of sugar, or carb, is also a huge factor in how our body processes the sugars. So naturally occurring sugars, in non-processed foods, are less likely to be a problem but added sugars, or processed foods with natural sugar, increase the sugar content to the point that it causes a rapid rise in our blood sugar which can lead to dis-ease.

So, when you see names like malt syrup, invert sugar, or glucose (or anything ending in -ose), you know these are added sugars. The position, and the number, of sugars on the ingredients list will give you a clue about its quantity in the total concentration. Did I say this can be tricky?

3. Hidden Sugars

A lot of the so-called healthy foods we eat contain lots of hidden sugar. From cereals to sweetened yogurts to packaged bread, frozen waffles, protein bars, and many more, these sugars are disguised and are often presented in different names.

I’ll list seven of the most common foods we eat which are usually sweetened with added sugars in high proportions. These include;

  • Packaged Bread

  • Cereals

  • Granola Bars

  • Dried Fruits

  • Yogurt

  • Protein Bars

  • Bottled Sauces (including spaghetti sauce)

Just to name a few. These sugars can come labeled in any of the over 60 names commonly assigned to them. If you’ll read the labels carefully, these names could be any of the following;

  • Agave

  • Fructose

  • Glucose

  • Brown sugar

  • Caramel

  • Carob syrup

  • Confectioner’s sugar

  • Corn syrup

  • Dextrin or Maltodextrin

  • Dextrose

  • Evaporated cane juice

  • Fruit juice

  • Evaporated corn sweetener

  • Lactose

  • Maltose

  • Molasses

  • Raw sugar

  • Rice syrup

  • Sucrose

  • Pear nectar, etc.

These are the most common names that are found on the labels, but there are many more.

4. Simple Carbs Are Also Sugars

Carbohydrates are either simple or complex.

The complex carbs are made up of sugar molecules in long chains and are found in peas, beans, sweet potatoes, vegetables and whole grains.

Simple carbs are easily, and quickly, broken down and used for a quick source of energy and are found in fruits, milk, and other products.

You’ll also find simple carbs in refined and processed sugar forms in your bread, cakes, cookies, cereal, fruit juice, candy bars, soft drinks, table sugar, syrups, and more.

The problem with simple carbs is they are broken down quickly they flood the blood stream with sugar. This elicits a high insulin response, and most of the would-be fuel is packed away as fat, leaving you hungry later when your body needs quick fuel. (You know that sugar crash!)

So, while fruits are considered simple carbs, the quality of the carb is better and the rise in sugar is decreased and sustained over a longer period of time.

Moral of the story is, as long as you do not have a medical condition that prevents you from eating fruit, then 1 - 2 servings a day is very good for you!

5. Sugar is addictive

The carb flu?

It is not your imagination when you try to go without sugar and you get a headache, you ache all over, you feel like you will go mad if you do not get sugar….It is real.

Sugar lights up the pleasure center of our brain not unlike an opioid, or cocaine.

Sugar can be so addictive it leads to compulsive behavior to continue to eat it despite the negative consequences of weight gain.

I mean seriously, imagine someone trying to take your chocolate cake you have been dying to have! Terrifying!!!

The more we eat sugar, the more the brain will cause cravings for the substance, not unlike a drug addiction.

So, what does this mean as far as eating sugar? Remember that moderation is always best and take notice if you exhibit any unusual behaviors if you are deprived sugar.

6. Steer Away from Artificial Sweeteners

If you think artificial sweeteners are your solution to sweetening your products, please think again. Over and over we have seen new substitute sugars hit the market only later to learn they cause some serious problems.

So, I want to ask you something, when was the last time you heard about a research study that showed artificial sweeteners helped people lose weight?


If there were, of you think you would have heard about it?

Of course, it would have been shouted from the rooftops!

Sorry, I digress....

Aside from being toxic, these artificial sweeteners, common among which are aspartame, saccharin, ACE K, and sucralose can also have a negative long-term effect on weight.

Artificial sweeteners disrupt the body’s ability to properly process the calories, the brain believes there is sugar present and an insulin response is launched. For this reason, people who choose to drink diet sodas, or use an artificial sweetener, do not lose weight.

However, from experience, when I get someone to quit drinking diet sodas, they almost always lose weight.

These sweeteners have also not enjoyed a good reputation over the years. For example, cyclamate, a common artificial sweetener in the early days had to be banned in 1970 by the FDA for its carcinogenic potential.

Likewise, experts and scientists believe there is a link between artificial sweeteners and some types of cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, autism, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

Although most of these are still under study, common side effects of artificial sweeteners include headaches and migraines, impairment of liver and kidney function, shrunken thymus glands, and mood disorders.

7. Natural Sweeteners Can Substitute

Considering the numerous side effects of artificial sweeteners and the unhealthy conditions of refined sugars too, natural sweeteners are therefore a great way to sweeten your foods without the problems associated with sugars.

Natural sweeteners are healthier choice of sugar and some of the common sources include;

  1. Raw Honey

  2. Maple Syrup

  3. Stevia

  4. Molasses

  5. Rice Syrup

  6. Banana Puree

  7. Real Fruit Jam

  8. Dates

  9. Balsamic Glaze

  10. Coconut Sugar, etc.

But wait! Won't these still cause a rise in blood sugar leading to dis-ease?

These natural sweeteners are not only excellent as sugar substitutes but most also have significant proportions of essential nutrients which are beneficial. The trick is to use them in moderation. Even with these natural sweets, it is advisable to slowly cut back on the sweetener and adjust your taste to less.

The jury is no longer out about sugar, they have returned with a guilty verdict and it is important that everyone learn how to

monitor sugars in theirs, and their children’s, foods. There is no longer any question that excessive intake of sugar is linked to a wide range of conditions that includes obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune, and even cancer.

Again, moderation....we can still enjoy the wonderful sensation of sweetness but we need to do this in moderation.


Suez, J., Koram, T., Zilberman-Schapira, G., Segal, E., Elinav, E. (2015). Non-caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges. Gut Microbes, 6(2), 149-155. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2015.1017700

Whitehouse, C.R., Boullata, J., McCauley, L.A. (2008). The potential toxicity of artificial sweeteners. American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, 56(6), 251-259.

Suez, J., Koram, T., Zilberman-Schapira, G., Segal, E., Elinav, E. (2015). Non-caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges. Gut Microbes, 6(2), 149-155. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2015.1017700

Whitehouse, C.R., Boullata, J., McCauley, L.A. (2008). The potential toxicity of artificial sweeteners. American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, 56(6), 251-259.

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