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Is sugar evil?

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD on Jan 28, 2009 4:47:53 AM

Nancy, is eliminating all sugar (except for natural sugar in fruits) from your diet safe? In normal grocery stores, it's almost impossible to find anything outside of the vegetable section that doesn't have sugar. I switched to soy milk but even that still has sugar….


Answer: Why would you want to eliminate all sugar? Sugar is a source of fuel for active muscles. All fruits, veggies and grains digest into sugar, the fuel that feeds your muscles as well as your brain. Milk also naturally contains sugar (lactose).


The concern should  not be "sugar" but the source of the sugar. For example, sugar in soda pop is "empty calories" -- with no nutritional value. Sugar in oranges comes along with lots of vitamin C, potassium, folate and other health-promoting nutrients. Enjoying sweet oranges is a smart food choice, nutritionally preferable to drinking orange soda.


Processed foods often have a little sugar added. For example,  the sugar in jarred spaghetti sauce adds to an enjoyable taste -- but it does not negate the nutrient content of the sauce. Don’t worry about it! Nutrition guidelines say that 10% of calories can appropriately come from refined sugar. As an active person, you likely need at least 2,000 calories a day. That means, you could enjoy 200 calories of refined sugar, if desired. That's 50 grams -- a quart of Gatorade, or a ton of spaghetti sauce!


Rather than getting hung up on sugar, look at the balance of your whole diet. You want to eat a diet with 85 to 90% nutrient-dense foods. But you need not eat a "perfect diet" (for you, this sounds like a sugar-free diet) to have a good diet.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

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