The Many Names of Sugar

Do you know how much sugar you consume every day?

Your relationship with sugar is probably complicated. You like (maybe crave) the sweetness yet hear about its detrimental effects. But sugar is not always unhealthy, especially if it comes from fruit and other naturally sweet foods. The key is knowing the facts about the sweet stuff you are consuming.

Naturally occurring sugars exist in whole foods, such as fruit and milk. Even meat and vegetables contain some natural sugars that caramelize when cooked.

Added sugars are the kinds of sweeteners you want to avoid. Often added to processed foods, added sugars hide behind as many as 61 different names, and they are not always listed on labels as “sugar.” You might see an added sweetener listed as:

  • Corn syrup/high-fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Rice syrup/brown rice syrup
  • Sucrose

Sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and white sugar that you add to your own food also qualify as added sugar.

Why It Matters

Excess added sugar may lead to weight gain and increase your risk for weight-related health conditions, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and diabetes- and obesity-related cancers, such as liver, pancreatic, bladder and colorectal cancers.

Because of these health problems, the American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugar in any form to 6 teaspoons per day and men to 9 teaspoons per day.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, eat naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, and avoid processed foods and sugary beverages.

The Simple and Complex World of Carbs

Carbohydrates are often demonized, but eliminating them completely could mean you miss out on vital nutrients. The key is knowing which carbs to eat and not to eat too much.

Simple carbohydrates include white sugar and other added sweeteners. However, fruit and milk also fall into this category, notes the American Heart Association. Fruit and milk contain important nutrients your body needs.

Complex carbohydrates are foods that contain starch. Legumes, potatoes, parsnips, rice, wheat, bread and pasta are all considered complex carbs. Complex carbs can become unhealthy when they get refined, as in white rice and white flour. Refined grains have been stripped of many of the vitamins, minerals and fiber found in whole grains.

Sugar and refined grains get digested quickly, causing a spike in your blood sugar followed by a crash that makes you feel tired and hungry. Healthier carbs, such as milk and whole grains, take longer to digest. They cause your blood sugar to rise more slowly, allowing you to feel satisfied longer and giving you more energy.


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