The United States celebrates Halloween in just under a week. Carved pumpkins will glow on front stoops, and kids will take to the streets to garner as much candy as humanely possible. It’s a fun holiday, and also a perfect way to spotlight a certain carbohydrate that characterizes candy: sugar.
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration revised the Nutrition Facts label to list both “Total Sugars” and Added Sugars.”
Added sugar is exactly what it sounds like. It’s sugar that is added in the baking, mixing, or general food production process. As a nutrient, it’s pretty inert, providing only calories and just about nothing else. While sugar isn’t necessarily a bad thing, extra and processed sugar does little good for our bodies and should be consumed as a rare treat.
Found in whole foods like fruits, naturally occurring sugar comes with nutritional benefits like antioxidants and fiber. This doesn’t mean gorge with abandon: like most things, moderation is key.
The jury is still out as to whether or not artificial sweeteners have an edge over added sugar. While some studies show that they reduce the chance of obesity, others show that they do not reduce and may even increase weight gain over time. This could be a result of increased cravings for sweets or a shift in gut bacteria, telling us that sweeteners don’t necessarily do a great job of replacing sugar cravings.
Sugar itself isn’t harmful. Instead, it’s how much we consume that often is. The human body doesn’t need added, processed sugar to function properly. In fact, the increase of sugar in our diets over the past 30 years has contributed directly to the obesity epidemic. Processed sugar with all of its calories adds up and results in weight gain.
The American Heart Association recommends keeping your daily intake of added sugar low. This means no more than 6 tablespoons for women and 9 tablespoons for men. To put that in perspective, a can of Coca-Cola has around 4 tablespoons of sugar in it.
The Bottom Line
Eating less sugar, with the important exception of whole fruit, is probably the way to go. Avoid processed foods and stick to whole ones. Eat foods high fiber like fruits, veggies, and whole-grains. Pay attention to nutrition labels and be conscious of what you put into your body: on Living Juice’s labels, you’ll notice zero added sugar.