Dietitian Fast Facts: Low-Sugar Diet

What does it really mean to avoid sugar? Well, we have to start by actually defining it. We know that there are three types of “macronutrients” that provide calories: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Sugar is considered a carbohydrate, alongside starch and fiber. In dietary terms, we have to determine whether sugar in a food is added or naturally present, since added sugars can cause unintentional weight gain when consumed in large amounts. Imagine eating a ripe peach. Is any of that sugar added? No! It’s naturally present in the food, part of its biology as it grows on the peach tree. The same is true for plain milk - lactose sugar is naturally present.

Now consider a product like a peach pie, or milk sweetened with chocolate syrup. Those foods have additional sugar introduced in their recipes, which can increase their caloric content. Added sugars can include “table sugar” (sucrose), which is produced from concentrated sugar beets or sugar cane; honey, which is produced by bees; agave nectar, which is extracted from the agave plant; and even corn syrup, which is glucose syrup produced from corn.

So, if you’re looking to cut sugar, it’s OK to keep eating fresh fruit and drinking 100% juice or low-fat milk. Just be a smart label reader, and check the ingredient listing for terms indicating that sugar has been added.

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