Sugar, whether it is naturally occurring or added to foods, is important to overall health. But for most Americans, the amount we are consuming goes way beyond what we need for health. Sugars, and other carbohydrate foods, are the beginning of the fuel the body needs to function. Carbohydrates all end up after digestion as glucose, and it is glucose that keeps the body working. So while we need sugars it seems lately that Americans have adopted the “If some is good, more must be better,” attitude regarding sugar.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reports that added sugars, those added during processing, preparation or at the table account for 16 percent of our total calories when they should be less than 10 percent of our calories. While the body does process all sugars in the same way, the problem with added sugars is the nutrition they often lack and the calories they contain. The chart included from the 2010 dietary Guidelines report provides a good view of the main sources of added sugars.
A look at this chart clearly shows the high level of empty calories Americans consume. With 46.5 percent of calories from added sugar coming from sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks, the nutritional gaps are clear. Shifting these calories to water, milk, even flavored milk, coffee and tea can keep hydration adequate an either eliminate unneeded calories or do that while boosting overall nutrition.
If you struggle with added sugars, start to reduce your intake and shift the calories you consume to foods that provide more nutrition for their calories.