Sugar isn’t just the white stuff we use to make things sweet. Sugar and carbohydrates have more in common than you might think. Some sugars (also referred to as carbohydrates) have nutritional value, some can be harmful to us, and telling the difference can be a challenge without a certified expert around. Fortunately for us, Girlmentum’s favorite dietician, Courtney Sullivan, answered some of our most pressing carb questions.
What is sugar?
A generalized name for sweet carbohydrates, many of which are used in foods.
Which sources of sugars are okay to include in our diets?
Certain carbohydrates or sources of carbohydrates can be healthy for you and provide nutritional value. They include high fiber whole grains (i.e. whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, etc.), low fat dairy products (such as Greek yogurt, part skim cheese, milk – lactose), fresh fruit, and vegetables.
Which sugars should we avoid (most of the time)?
You want to avoid the concentrated/refined forms of sugar found in white flour, cakes, cookies, donuts, processed foods, ice cream, soda, candy, etc… In large quantities, and over time, these sugars can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, liver disease, heightened cholesterol (bad cholesterol LDL), and increased risk of heart disease. Refined sugar in a concentrated form can affect hormone regulation. It is very addictive and has a vicious cycle of making you crave “more sugar” after you eat it. For example, if you eat cookies at 3pm for your afternoon snack instead of an apple with a handful of almonds, your body will crave more sugar in 1-2 hours because there is no fiber or nutritional value that is able to keep your blood sugar stable.
What should girls know about processed sugar substitutes like Equal?
They have been linked to cancer. More studies are being done daily. I recommend avoiding processed sugar substitutes when possible.
What are some natural sugar substitutes to consider?
Honey, agave, or even Stevia and Truvia have been shown to be a more natural “zero calorie sugar substitute” because they are derived from a plant.
What is a good rule of thumb in terms of portion control when it comes to sugar?
Pre-teens and teenagers should not have more than 5-8 teaspoons of sugar per day (equal to 20-32 grams of sugar). Think about it, this is equivalent to one can of soda. Don’t make your calories coming from sugar be empty calories. Choose fresh fruits and oatmeal, fresh Greek yogurt instead.