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.