Clear Up The Sugar Confusion

 Vocal Point – Imagine That

Sugar Cubes spelling out "SUGAR"

American women are eating a lot more sugar today than our moms did 40 years ago. Twenty-five pounds more per year, to be exact. You may not think you’re one of them, especially if you don’t dip into the sugar bowl very often, but it can be tough to tell how much sugar you’re consuming. That’s because sugary sweeteners can go by any one of 100-plus names—and they can be hidden in surprising places like burger rolls and lunch meat. Here’s the scoop on some of the commonly asked questions about sugar.

Why does sugar go by so many names?
Typically, sugars are named based upon their chemical makeup (such as lactose or fructose) or the food they originally came from (such as beet sugar or maple syrup). Some of sugar’s names are fairly obvious: anything with “sugar” or “syrup” in its name, as well as molasses, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup. Other trickier names include turbinado, erythritol, levulose, fruit juice concentrate, jaggery, and panela.

What is “natural sugar”?
“Natural sugars” are ones that were “added” to a food by Mother Nature, not a manufacturer. Natural sugars include the fructose in fruit and the lactose in milk. “Added sugars” are things like table sugar, honey, molasses, and syrups that food makers combine with a food to make it sweeter. Sometimes foods labeled “no sugar added” will still have several grams of sugar listed on their Nutrition Facts label. That’s likely because its ingredients contain natural sugars.

How can I tell how much sugar is in a food?
Read the Nutrition Facts label to locate the number of grams of sugar that are in one serving of the food. Remember that this includes all kinds of sugar, including natural sugar. Also remember that even foods that are “low” in sugar can still be high in calories and fat, so read the rest of the label, too.

Are “reduced-sugar” foods always “low” in sugar?
No. “Reduced sugar” only means that the food contains 25% less sugars than the “regular” or “original” version of that food. Even foods labeled “sugar-free” can contain trace amounts of sugar (less than 1/8 teaspoon).

Can sugar cause diabetes?
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is not caused by sugar, but by a “combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.” Still, being obese can raise your risk for developing diabetes, and eating too many sugary (and therefore high-calorie) foods can raise your risk of becoming obese. Maybe that’s why researchers who examined data from the ongoing Black Women’s Health Study discovered that regularly drinking sugary beverages was linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Can you be “addicted” to sugar?
Experts haven’t officially said “yes” to this one, but some research has shown that eating sugar triggers the brain to release natural feel-good chemicals called opiods—though not to the same degree as addictive drugs do.