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Sugar: Villain or Misunderstand Addition

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Every health blog or dietary conversation seems to center around the topic of sugar being some type of supervillain. Articles tell you to cut out the soda; blogs tell you to destroy the glaze. How bad is sugar, really? Is the sweet addition the problem, or is it an individual's indulgence?

According to several reports, the average American consumes more than three times the recommended amount of added sugar. Eating such large amounts of added sugar contributes to increased risks of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. However, sugar itself is not harmful to the human body; it is the contribution of calories without nutrients that is the problem. Therefore, the over-indulgence in added sugars leads to health complications.

Understanding "Added Sugar"

People often confuse natural sugar with added sugar. Natural sugar is the sugar that is found in existing foods, like fruit and plain milk. The sugar is naturally occurring.

Added sugar is the stuff added after, during processing. For example, a peach contains no added sugar when picked, but once it is peeled, drenched in syrup, and sealed in a can to be delivered to grocery store shelves, it is full of added sugars. Some of the most common names of added sugars include:

  • Cane sugar

  • Corn syrup

  • Glucose

  • Agave nectar

  • Blackstrap molasses


Managing Sugar Intake

People tend to consume the most added sugar in beverages, such as juices, sodas, sports mixes, coffee, teas, energy drinks, etc. Therefore, one surefire way to manage your sugar intake is to limit such drinks or eliminate them from your diet. Water is always the preferred beverage of the body, and many people do not drink enough of it.

According to the American Heart Association, women should eat no more than 6 tsp of added sugar daily, and men should consume no more than 9 tsp. That might sound like more than enough, which it is, but when you consider that a 20 oz bottle of Coca-Cola contains 16 tsp, it is easy to see how people can go overboard.

Limitation Not Elimination

Sugar is not your enemy. The substance really does nothing for or to your body. Still, consuming an abundance of sugar increases calories and converts to fat, which is problematic for your health. Therefore, managing sugar intake is important.

Thankfully, managing intake does not mean eliminating sugar from your diet. Like most things, sugar is Ok in moderation. While it is likely best to avoid consuming large amounts of sweets and treats daily, the occasional indulgence will not be a problem. However, you should consult with your primary care physician for specific guidance.

Sugar is not a bad guy; it is a dietary ingredient. While it can make over-indulgence easier because of its sweetness, it is not harmful in small, appropriate doses. You can allow yourself an occasional candy or soda. In fact, when sugar is restricted, it can make the occasional sweet snack or treat that much more memorable and enjoyable. You can similarly view most foods: none are good or bad; there are those that people can enjoy frequently and those they should less so.

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