The term sugar is used to describe a wide range of compounds that vary in sweetness. Common sugars include:
Sugars are found naturally in milk products (lactose) and fruits (fructose). Most of the sugar in the American diet is from added sugars in food products.
Sweeteners do the following things:
Foods containing natural sugars (such as fruit) also include vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Many foods with added sugars often add calories without nutrients. These foods and drinks are often called "empty" calories.
Most people know that there is a lot of added sugar in soda. However, popular "vitamin-type" waters, sports drinks, coffee drinks, and energy drinks also contain a lot of added sugar.
Some sweeteners are made by processing sugar compounds. Others occur naturally.
Sucrose (table sugar):
Other commonly used sugars:
Other types of natural sugars:
Other types of natural sugars:
Sugar provides calories and no other nutrients. Sugar and other sweeteners with calories can lead to tooth decay.
Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol may cause stomach cramps and diarrhea when eaten in large amounts.
Sugar is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) list of safe foods. It contains 16 calories per teaspoon and can be used in moderation.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars in your diet. The recommendation extends to all types of added sugars.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommends limiting added sugars. Some ways to reduce your intake of added sugars include:
The American Diabetes Association nutrition guidelines state that you do not need to avoid all sugar and foods with sugar if you have diabetes. You can eat limited amounts of these foods in place of other carbohydrates.
If you have diabetes:
Johnson RJ, Appel LJ, Brands M, Howard BV, Lefevre M, Lustig RH, et al. Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1011-1020.
Franz MJ, et al. American Diabetes Association Nutrition Recommendations and Guidelines. Diabetes Care. 2008;31 (Suppl 1):S61-S78.
Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010;33:2477-2483.
United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2010. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2010.
Updated by: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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