Sugar is good for you in moderation

The Health Corner

I am a self-proclaimed sugar addict.

Everywhere I look, I’m warned about its affect on my health — in documentaries, news reports, pamphlets, social media.

I wondered if completely removing sugar from my diet was necessary for my health.

The average individual in the U.S. consumes 358 calories of sugar in a single day, according to the American Heart Association. This is equivalent to 22 teaspoons per day.

And an alarming study published in 2013 found that lab rats saw sugar to be more rewarding and attractive than other drugs such as cocaine.

The researchers found the rats chose sugar over cocaine every time they were given this choice.

This drug-like, addictive quality explains why humans have a desire to consume as much sugar as we do.  

There are two types of sugars that people consume: naturally occurring and added sugars, according to the AHA.

Naturally occurring sugars are organically found in foods, including fruit and milk. Added sugars contain no nutritional value and are often added in the process of preparing food or drinks.

The two largest sources of added sugars in the U.S. are beverages like soda or fruit juices and snacks like candy or cake, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Although we consume so much of it, added sugar actually offers no nutrients, proteins, healthy fats or enzymes, according to a Harvard University blog by Mary E. Gearing.

Added sugar is simply empty calories. Marcia Bristow, registered dietitian nutritionist and lecturer at UVM, states in her blog that these empty calories from added sugars could potentially lead to both weight gain and obesity.

I found that, in order to prevent type II diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, most women should limit the amount of sugar intake to only 100 calories, which is equivalent to six teaspoons of sugar per day.

On a given day, I probably consume 100 or more calories of sugar. I add it to my daily coffee, I eat sweetened yogurts, bread, salad dressings and I sometimes treat myself to chocolate. The amount of sugar I consume adds up quickly and in ways I did not realize.

It is suggested that men should consume 150 calories, which is nine teaspoons of sugar, according to the AHA.

This recommended caloric intake is much less than what the average American consumes currently.

According to Dr. Rachel Johnson, registered dietitian and professor at UVM, Americans consume added sugars well in excess of recommendations for a variety of reasons.

“Humans have an innate preference for a sweet taste,” she stated. “Added sugars are ubiquitous in the American food supply. They are in everything from sugary drinks and sweet treats to pasta sauce, ketchup and salad dressings.”

Johnson also stated that foods containing added sugars are heavily advertised, often times with the assistance of celebrities to endorse the unhealthy food products.

According to Bristow’s blog, all carbohydrates are composed of sugar, including fruits, vegetables and dairy, meaning that it is not possible to give up sugar completely without eliminating these necessary food groups as well as critical vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Thus, it is not healthy nor possible to give up all sugar in its entirety.

Senior Natalie Hewitt, a biology major, said that despite her sweet tooth, she makes sure to eat everything in moderation, especially foods with added sugars.

“Although it might be easy to give in and drink soda or choose the more processed product with added sugar, I must resist this tendency,” Hewitt said. “This information is still constantly being ingrained into my mind now through news and other media sources and even in my nutrition course.”

According to the USDA, I can limit my added sugar intake if I drink water or other unsweetened beverages and eat processed sweet foods only in moderation.

Based on my research, there’s no need for me or the rest of the U.S. population to renounce sugar. Although I know about its potential consequences, I found that moderation is key in order to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle.