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Is Sugar Ever Good for You?

Pancakes with berries and sugar

Much of today’s dietary advice encourages you to “avoid sugar” or “eat fewer sweets.” But should you completely eliminate sugar from your diet? Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know when it comes to cutting back on sugar.

Is It Ever OK to Eat Sugar?

Yes, it just depends on the source. Sugar naturally exists in many foods that can be staples in your daily diet. All fruits, for example, contain sugar in the form of fructose. All dairy products also contain sugar in the form of lactose. If you eliminate sugar from all sources, you could be avoiding foods (such as fruit) that are crucial for a healthy diet.

The dilemma arises with processed foods: was sugar added to it or was it already present? In some cases, the answer is simple — all plain dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) and all fresh fruit (apples, strawberries, bananas) will have naturally occurring sugars. These sugars, and the whole foods that contain them, are fair game for most healthy adults, mainly because they come packaged with other valuable nutrients such as fiber, calcium and vitamin C.

In other foods though (such as flavored yogurts, juices, ice cream, and jam and jelly), it is difficult to figure out how much sugar was naturally present versus added during food processing. Moreover, these foods have often been stripped of valuable nutrients that would help with digesting and absorbing sugar. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily added sugar sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women, and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men.

How to Spot Added Sugar

To help consumers make better choices, the Food and Drug Administration recently proposed changing the Nutrition Facts Panel on food labels to reflect the breakdown of added and natural sugars in a product. This is the type of information that would have been useful when trying to select foods with less added sugar. Unfortunately, the changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel have been postponed. Still, there are a few tricks to quickly recognizing added sugars on food labels — check our easy shortcuts in 3 Simple Tips for Avoiding Added Sugar.

Being knowledgeable about natural versus added sugars will help you feel better about your food choices, while also letting you indulge your sweet tooth without any guilt. Keep in mind that any processed food with real fruit or dairy will have some sugar, and rely on ingredient lists to figure out whether other sugars have been added.

Recipes with Low Added Sugar

Want to try cooking with less added sugar? Check out Zipongo’s Low Added Sugar recipes. Here are a few favorites to get you started:

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna with Broccolini

Photo and recipe by EatingWell

Chicken and Spiced Apples

Chicken & Spiced Apple recipe

Photo and recipe by EatingWell

8-Layer Taco Salad

Photo and recipe by EatingWell

Vegetarian Spinach Enchiladas

Vegetarian Spinach Enchiladas
Photo and recipe by EatingWell

Tilapia with Tomato-Olive Sauce

Tilapia recipe
Photo and recipe by EatingWell

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