Meeting Carbohydrates – Sweets

I’ve written about other groups of carbohydrate-containing foods – starchy vegetables, dairy, fruit, grains, beans and lentils – to make sure readers know these foods will affect blood glucose levels, and to explain how the nutritional value of carbohydrate foods “justifies” including them in your diet by managing, not avoiding, the carbohydrate content. So, what about sweets – sugar?

Most everyone knows that sugar is associated with diabetes. In fact, some think that sugar is the only food that affects blood “sugar” levels, and is a food that must be avoided. That is, of course, inaccurate on both counts. All carbohydrates affect blood “sugar” (blood glucose) levels and sugar is not strictly off limits. Sweets can be included in moderation in a healthy eating plan by managing the carbohydrate content. But, it’s not the nutritional value of sugar that “justifies” including occasional and moderate amounts in your diet because sugar has no redeeming nutritional value – it’s dessert.

I could go several different directions in a discussion about sugar, but first a simple question. Would you consider a robust basil pasta sauce or a creamy Vidalia onion salad dressing a suitable dessert? If not (and who would) let’s talk about how to find, and avoid, added sugar. After all, if we’re going to include sugar in our diet in moderation purely for pleasure, let’s go for fine chocolate instead of ketchup.

First, you’ll find added sugar on the food label, but not necessarily in the nutrition facts. The nutrition information will include the grams per serving of “sugars” listed under “total carbohydrate”, but that includes both natural and added sugar. One-half cup of crushed pineapple in juice contains 16 grams of all natural “sugars”, but one-half cup pineapple in syrup contains 24 grams of “sugars”—same pineapple, same juice, but 8 grams of added sugar in the syrup. You can only find the added sugar by reading the ingredients list.

Second, added sugar in the ingredients list may not always be called “sugar.” Worse, manufacturers often use different sugars in the same product, listing them separately. The entire list is too long to include, but here are some guidelines:
• Look for words ending with “ose” – sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltose, etc.
• Look for cane, honey, molasses, nectar, or syrup
• Look for “sugar” listed multiple times – brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, turbinado sugar, invert sugar, or beet sugar

Sugar is not a forbidden food, but moderation is important. Eliminate foods with added sugar by checking ingredients lists, and have your dessert with coffee instead of spaghetti.

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