How Much Sugar is in Your Food?

A collection of nutrition labels

Thanks to the vast amounts of information readily available online and on television, many people have learned about the role of sugar in our body and how too much of it can be unhealthy. This came from a US government study of the issue – back in 1977, the US Senate Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs studied the role of carbohydrates in the human diet to get to the root cause of the country’s growing obesity problem.

The Role of Sugars

But is sugar really that bad? To answer this, we need to define sugar more clearly. Sugar is not just the white granules you place in your coffee. Sugars are small components of carbohydrates clumped together and can be found in a variety of food sources. Fruits, for example, contain the sugar fructose. Corns and carrots contain the sugar glucose. Milk and other dairy products contain the sugar sucrose. The common table sugar is also made up of sucrose.

On their own, sugars are excellent sources of energy. Their chemical structure is very simple and very small, making it easy for our body to digest them and readily convert them to energy. Glucose is our body’s primary energy source. All the food we eat first gets converted into glucose before we convert it to energy. Hence, food sources like rice and other grains are quickly turned to energy once we eat them.

Understanding Sugars is Simple

As simple as they are, the principle of incorporating sugars in our diet becomes easy – just avoid too much of it to be healthy. “Too much,” understandably, can be a relative term and its definition can vary from person to person.

However, the rule is simple: eat based on your activity. If your work is a desk job from nine to five, then chances are, eating too many sandwiches and quick fries from your local fast food chain isn’t good. Diversifying your food choices is a good option. But if you’re an active person, say a professional athlete, sugars provide an excellent source of energy you can use.

Understanding these principles is important because sugar is available in all the food we eat – even the salads and other supposedly healthy foods. “Sugar-free” foods are only free of table sugar, but not of the other sugars inherently present in food. So keep this in mind next time you think you’re off the hook eating that “sugar-free” cake.