Q: I’m confused about sugar! Is it bad for you? Are sugar substitutes the better choice?
A: There are two main types of sugar: added and natural. Added sugars are found in processed foods and drinks. Naturally-occurring sugars are found in whole foods like fruit and milk.
Our bodies can tell the difference between foods that contain added sugars and those that are naturally sweet. Since our bodies do not need the added sugar that is found in processed foods, our bodies do not burn all the calories from those foods. Consequently, the remaining calories of the food will be stored as fat.
Tips for reduced-sugar grocery shopping include checking the food’s label to see how much sugar the food contains, looking for the “total carbohydrate” listing instead of the “sugar” listing, and to choose fruit products that say “no added sugar.”
Artificial sweeteners Equal (aspartame) and Splenda (sucralose), as well as the natural sugar substitute, Stevia, are popular sugar alternatives. A rule of thumb for sugar substitutes: if they help you keep your weight under control and you don’t consume excessive quantities, the benefits typically outweigh any risks. Aim for one to two packets or one artificially sweetened item, like a yogurt, per day. Beware that they leave sweetness on your taste buds, which may exacerbate cravings.
It’s very important to reduce your overall sugar intake. To do this, limit sugary drinks, add only 1-2 teaspoons of table sugar per meal or beverage, and limit the amount of sugar substitutes to one or two items per day.