It’s that time of the semester again where they start piling on the projects. One of my recent projects was a presentation over “How Much Sugar Are We Really Eating?” This topic was very interesting to me because sugar is in EVERYTHING. I had a lot of fun with this presentation and I think the class did as well.
First off I want to talk about some sugar basics. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that supplies 4 calories per gram. Because sugar is a simple carbohydrate it is broken down more quickly than your complex carbohydrates (fruits and veggies), fats, and proteins it is a great, quick source of energy for our bodies. Sugar also plays a role in food preparation by improving taste, as well as texture. It provides sweetness, acts as a preservative in jams and jellies, allows the fermentation of yeast so that we get nice fluffy bread, and it causes the nice golden brown color on baked goods.
Sugars are made up of monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are single units and are the most basic form of sugar. Glucose, fructose, and galactose are the three monosaccharides.
- Glucose is the most common type of sugar and is a component of all three different types of disaccharides.
- Fructose is the sugar that is found in fruits (aka fruit sugar)
- Galactose is a component of the disaccharide lactose that is found in milk.
Disaccharides are two monosaccharides joined together. There are three disaccharides as well.
- Lactose, which is your milk sugar and is composed of glucose and galactose
- Maltose, which is found during the digestion of starchy foods such as potatoes and corn. It is composed of 2 glucose units
- Sucrose (aka table sugar), which is made up of glucose and fructose
One teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams of carbohydrate and supplies about 16 calories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide suggests that we consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar each day. This may sound like a lot of sugar, but it adds up really quickly. One 12 oz soft drink contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar and I know several people who consume at least 2 or 3 of those in a single day.
In case you can’t see, this breakfast cereal has 17 grams of sugar in a 1 cup serving. 17 grams of sugar is about 4 teaspoons of sugar. If you eat this for breakfast you are already about halfway to the 9 teaspoon maximum. I don’t know about you but I don’t eat my cereal dry. Adding a half of a cup of milk adds an additional 6 grams or 1.5 teaspoons for a total of 5.5 teaspoons or 23 grams of sugar for breakfast alone. This leaves you with only 3.5 or 13 grams of sugar for the rest of the day.
This website here is very, very cool. We were shown this in one of my classes and I just thought that it was fascinating and really puts things into a realistic perspective. Nursing Your Sweet Tooth
I think that everyone should be aware of how much sugar that they are eating because high sugar consumption has been linked with many preventable diseases. In order to try to decrease daily sugar consumption, here are a few tips on enhancing the sweetness of you food:
- Serve sweet foods (such as cakes, cookies, and some pies) warm. The heat actually enhances the sweetness.
- Add sweet spices such as cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, or clove. I only add cinnamon to my oatmeal in the mornings and I think that it tastes great without the sugar.
- Adding a pinch of salt to sweet treats helps enhance the sweetness as well.
- This tip is more for cutting back on sugar rather than enhancing the sweetness, but reducing the sugar in a recipe by 1/3 is really helpful. I honestly can’t tell a difference between the original recipe and the recipe with 1/3 less sugar.
With all of this said, however, sugar shouldn’t be avoided or looked at as something horrible. Sugar is meant to be enjoyed, but not in the excessive amounts that we love to enjoy it in today. It should be something enjoyed in moderation.