Sugar Vs. Added Sugar

You may have been wondering, what is the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar?  Naturally occurring sugar is sugar found in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and milk. Added sugar is sugar that is added to processed foods and drinks, such as breads, sauces, and sodas.


Nutritionally speaking, there is a vast and important difference between foods that have naturally occurring sugar and foods that have added sugar. Foods that contain naturally occurring sugar are often a good source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. These foods cause a slow and steady rise in blood sugar, which is ideal for sustaining energy levels. This is because the fiber helps slow digestion and extends the release of energy.

Comparatively, foods high in added sugar often lack fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are laden with excess calories and saturated (unhealthy) fat. Eating foods high in added sugar and fat and low in fiber will lead to an energy burst followed closely by an energy crash. This is because with high levels of added sugar, blood sugar levels sky rocket. Without fiber (or protein) to help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, digestion progresses quickly and a “sugar crash” is imminent.

Sources of Added Sugar

The major sources of added sugars in American diets are regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, and fruit drinks (e.g. fruit punch, juices with added sugar); dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk); and other grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles). It can be difficult to know how much sugar is added versus naturally occurring. One rule of thumb is that if the food/drink doesn’t have a nutrition label (e.g. whole fruit), then it doesn’t have any added sugar. You will find foods like these in the produce section of the grocery store. Plain milk, plain Greek yogurt, cheese, and meat are examples of foods that may have a nutrition label, but do not contain added sugar.

Thankfully, the new nutrition label guidelines will make it easier to differentiate between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Most food manufactures will have until 2018 to comply with the new regulations. In the meantime, stick to whole foods if you want to avoid added sugar.


Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that provides energy to fuel the body…. Why does it have such a bad reputation if it is an energy source for the body? The problem with sugar in today’s world is that most people are consuming way too much of it. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. This far exceeds the 2015-2020 dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommends no more than 10% of daily calories come from added sugar. Notice the guidelines are for added sugar rather than naturally occurring sugar.

If you are interested in sweet alternatives to high added sugar foods, check out this Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog.

5 Healthy Recipe Substitutions

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice taste or texture. Enjoying your favorite foods while also making some healthy swaps is possible! Cutting down on calories, saturated fat, and sugar, are just a few ways to tweak your diet. The best part is that most people (e.g. picky kids or spouse) may not even notice the difference.

1) Fruit or vegetable puree for vegetable oil

Swapping fruit or vegetable puree (e.g. unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas, or mashed avocado) for vegetable oil in baked goods is one of the easiest ways to cut calories and saturated fat. This substitution works well with both homemade goods, such as zucchini bread, and box goods, such as whole grain blueberry muffins. The texture remains light and fluffy and the flavor remains sweet!

2) Unsweetened applesauce for sugar

This is a great one for people with type II diabetes or anyone who is looking to reduce the amount of sugar in a baked goods recipe. The applesauce adds just enough sweetness without adding all the extra calories that sugar contains. Just be sure to reduce the amount of liquid by 1/4 cup for every cup of applesauce you substitute. This will help the recipe to maintain the proper consistency. The substitution works greats for oatmeal raisin cookies

3) Rolled oats for breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs usually pack a hefty amount of sodium and added fat. Replacing breadcrumbs with oatmeal not only reduces the sodium and fat, but the oatmeal is a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, B vitamins, selenium, and tryptophan. Make sure to use rolled oats if you want to maintain the crunchy texture of breadcrumbs. Quick oats are more processed and, therefore, cook more quickly……which may lead to a soggy dish. This substitute works great for recipes like meatloaf and casseroles.

4) Mashed avocado for mayo

This recipe swap is a beloved one for many people who have already discovered how delicious it is! If you do a side by side nutritional comparison of avocado vs. mayo, avocado is clearly the champ! Additionally, avocado complements almost any dish!



5) Pureed frozen fruit for ice cream

Whether you’re looking to reduce calories or sugar, or add in more nutrients…frozen fruit ice cream has the same creamy texture as ice cream, without all the “extras”. Simply puree your favorite fruit (e.g. bananas, strawberries, blueberries, or mango). Add your favorite milk (cow, coconut, almond, cashew, soy, etc.) for an even creamier texture. Adding a little pure vanilla extract will make for an even richer, more full flavor. But, rest assured, your frozen fruit “ice cream” will taste delightful even without anything added to it.  


News Roundup: Recommendations for Added Sugar Intake for Teens and Children

Image Source: The American Heart Association 

Last week the American Heart Association (AHA) announced their recommendations for daily added sugar intake for children and teens. The AHA recommends that children and teens between ages 2 and 18 should limit added sugar to less than 25 grams, or about 6 teaspoons, per day. Children younger than 2 years old should not consume any added sugar.

The AHA guidelines come on the heels of last year’s recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) that adults and children should limit their daily added sugar intake to less than 10% of total calories.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of blogs and articles related to the new AHA guidelines on added sugar intake.

Children should eat less than 25 grams of added sugars daily. American Heart Association. “Eating foods high in added sugars throughout childhood is linked to the development of risk factors for heart disease, such as an increased risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure in children and young adults… Overweight children who continue to take in more added sugars are more likely to be insulin resistant, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.”

New guidelines on added sugar for kids. CBS News. “Added sugars are often a trick for parents who want to convince their kids to eat foods they might otherwise refuse… it’s best to try to limit added sugar intake to foods that also come with other nutrients, such as milk and whole grains, rather than sugary sodas, for example, which have no nutritional value.”

American Heart Association Issues New Recommendations for Kids and Sugar. ABC News. “We’re talking about added sugar, not the naturally occurring sugars found in dairy products or fruit and really there is mounting evidence that sugar is the major culprit, probably more so than fat and salt, in our diets… We know it triggers addiction centers in the brain. It triggers inflammation in our body, the stimulation of fat around our organs”.

How Much Is Too Much? The growing concern over too much added sugar in our diets. Sugar “It's easy to exceed those limits. With as many as 11 teaspoons (46.2 grams) of added sugar in one 12 oz. soda, a single serving is close to double most people's daily sugar allowance. But sugar also is pervasive in our food supply. A leading brand of yogurt, for example, has 7 teaspoons (29 grams) of total sugars in a single serving, most of it added.”





What are microgreens?

As the name suggests, microgreens are vegetable and herb seedlings less than 14 days old. They are younger than baby greens (i.e. baby spinach, baby kale) and older than sprouts (i.e. bean sprouts). They have been gaining in popularity in recent years due to their high nutrition content and ability to garnish many dishes with bright colors.

Health benefits

These tiny, vibrantly colored greens, pack even more nutrients that their adult versions. One research study measured the amount of four groups of vitamins and other phytochemicals – including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene in 25 varieties of commercially available microgreens (i.e. daikon radish, arugula, cilantro, and basil). The results showed that microgreens had four to six times more nutrients than their adult counterparts.

Phytonutrients are known for their beneficial health-promoting properties, such as including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Thus, incorporating them into a healthy diet could be beneficial for Americans. Especially since only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables to meet the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals.

Where can I buy microgreens?

Some stores like Whole Foods sell microgreens. However, unless you live in a larger city, you will likely have trouble finding them at your local supermarket. Many people like to grow their own microgreens. Given this, microgreens are showing up more frequently at local farmer’s markets these days. The short germination and life span make it easy to grown them in small spaces, and indoors. You can also order them online.

Ways to incorporate microgreens into your diet

Microgreens make an excellent ingredient or garnish for soups, salads, and sandwiches. Try one of these easy recipes:

Three-ingredient Pea Soup. An excellent source of protein, fiber, and Vitamin A.

Microgreens with Strawberry-Lime Vinaigrette. An excellent source of protein, fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron.

California Club Sandwich. An excellent source of protein, fiber, unsaturated (healthy) fat, Vitamin C, and Iron.

Check out our Pinterest board for more ideas. 

Army H.E.A.L.T.H.'s Guide to Greens

Navigating the greens section at the grocery store can be intimidating, especially if you tend to buy the same variety of produce at each visit. By learning more about the diverse tastes, textures, and nutrients in different salad greens, you will feel more confident in your purchase and hopefully comfortable enough to branch out of your comfort zone and try something new.

As you will read below, salad greens are a great addition to a healthy, balanced diet. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least 1.5 cups of dark, leafy vegetables per week. Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or just add some more nutrient-dense foods to your diet, salad greens are the perfect addition. They are low in calories and high in volume, helping you to feel more full and satisfied when including them in your meal plan. They are also very diverse. Greens can be used in salads, smoothies, wraps, and soups, to name a few. They can be eaten raw, sautéed, or baked in the oven as crisps.


Dark, leafy greens are high in several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. They are also rich in fiber, which helps keep the digestive tract regular and the colon healthy. Kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, romaine, rapini, and Swiss chard are all examples of dark greens.

Additionally, one serving of spinach has only 23 calories, but 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.  One cup of kale has only 49 calories but 4 grams of protein. Their high fiber and protein content will leave you feeling fuller, longer. For more information on the health benefits of spinach and kale, check out the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Superfood Series.

Quick Tip: When it comes to buying salad greens, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient dense the food. For example, spinach has 19 times more Vitamin A and 3 times as much protein as iceberg lettuce.

Taste and Texture

Consider the texture of the green when thinking of a proper use for it. For example, kale is very durable and its leaves do not wilt easily. This makes it ideal for baking kale chips in the oven. It is also a good green for salads that have dressing added ahead of time, as the leaves will not get soggy and wilt. Romaine lettuce is crispy, and tender, without being bitter. This makes it ideal for strongly flavored dressings such as Caesar. Spinach has a rich flavor and tender leaf, which makes it great for eating raw in a salad or in a wrap. Swiss chard is slightly bitter, so it is best enjoyed when sautéed or added to a soup or casserole.