Sugar Facts

What is Sugar?

Sugar is one of three kinds of carbohydrate: starch, fiber and sugar. Sugar is found only in foods of plant origin. In food, sugar is classified as either naturally occurring or added. Naturally occurring sugars include lactose in milk, fructose in fruit, honey and vegetables and maltose in beer. Added sugars originate from corn, beets, grapes, and sugar cane, which are processed before being added to foods. The body cannot tell the difference between naturally occurring and added sugars because they are identical chemically. Although, food sources of naturally occurring sugars also provide vitamins and minerals, while foods containing added sugars provide mainly calories and very few vitamins and minerals. For this reason, the calories in added sugar are called "empty calories".

On the Nutrition Facts panel of a food label, "sugars" include both added and naturally occurring sugars; however, on the ingredient list, only added sugars are listed. Added sugars have many names including corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrins, granulated sugar, invert sugar, and concentrated fruit juice sweetener.

Sugar requirements

There is no requirement for sugar, but there is a minimum requirement for total carbohydrate, which is 130 grams/day for male and female adults and children. Most people eat much more than the minimum requirement. The recommendations for sugar intake are controversial. The World Health Organization recommends that added sugars contribute no more than 10% of total calories. By that criterion, a person on a 2000-calorie diet should consume no more than 50 grams of carbohydrate in the form of sugar. (One teaspoon of sugar provides 4 grams of carbohydrate.) On the other hand, the National Academy of Sciences Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) sets the cut-off at 25% of calories, or 125 grams of carbohydrate from sugar on a 2000-calorie diet. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends limiting sugar to 6 to 10% of calories. from sugar.

What happens when Sugar intake is too high?

Added sugar, which does not contain vitamins and minerals, displaces nutritious food in the diet. High intakes of sugar promote overeating because of its stimulating taste. Excess calories consumed over time result in obesity with its myriad of health risks and problems. A high sugar intake is closely associated with dental caries especially when the sugar is eaten as a sticky food. Carefully controlled studies have not found a correlation between sugar and behavioral problems, although preliminary animal research has shown evidence of sugar-dependence.

What happens when Sugar intake is too low?

There is no need for sugar in the diet. The requirements for carbohydrate can be met with starches.

Which foods are high in Sugar?

Soda is the number one source of sugar in the U.S. diet, followed by sweetened fruit drinks. Sweets and candies, cakes and cookies, and dairy desserts such as ice cream also major sources of sugar. Many presumably wholesome foods, like ready-to-eat cereals and breakfast bars, are also significant sources of sugar. Sugar occurs naturally in fruit and milk products, and to a lesser degree, in vegetables.

List of foods high in Sugar

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