Carbohydrates: Busting the sugar myth

  • Published
  • By Kayla K. Scherf MFCS, RD, LD
  • 23rd Medical Group Health and Wellness Center
People continue to believe that carbohydrates will make them gain weight, when in reality, it is not carbohydrates that increase waistlines, but daily caloric intake.

Both sugars and starches fall into the carbohydrate category and it is important to make healthy carbohydrate choices. Foods that contain carbohydrates include breads, cereal, rice, pasta, corn, peas, potatoes, fruit, milk, milk products and sweets.

Choosing baked potatoes, light yogurt and fresh fruit over French fries, regular yogurt and fruit juice will add extra fiber and nutrients into your daily intake.

It is important to limit the amount of added sugars that are in the foods that you eat. Looking at the nutrition label will help to determine if there are added sugars in the foods that you eat.

Ingredients that are considered to be added sugar include fruit-juice concentrate, honey, syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, raw sugar and brown sugar.

People often pick up a product based on the front of the label and they do not fully understand what it means.

If a label reads "no sugar added," "sugar-free" or "less sugar" what does it really mean?

The Food and Drug Administration has set standards for food labels. The standard for "no sugar added" is that no sugar or sugar-containing ingredient is added.

This does not mean that a food product like "no sugar added" ice cream has no sugar. There are still natural milk sugars in that ice cream that will contribute to the total carbohydrate in that food. Sugar-free foods must contain .5-grams of sugar or less per serving. Food items labeled with "less sugar" contain at least 25 percent less sugar than the standard reference product.

There are many misconceptions about food when it comes to sugar.

Many people believe that eating honey is better because it is "natural." However, one teaspoon of honey has six calories, which is more than one teaspoon of raw sugar. Honey is sweeter than raw sugar so when adding it to foods you may be able to use less. Sugar is sugar whether it is coming from raw sugar or honey.

Another common misconception is that carrots are high in sugar so they need to be avoided. Carrots are actually low in sugar. Eating an entire 15-ounce bag of baby carrots adds 15-grams of sugar, which is half of what an eight-ounce glass of regular soda provides. Keep in mind this is a lot of carrots, covering all of your vegetable servings for the day. Carrots pack in a lot of fiber plus vitamin A to keep your skin and eyes in top health.

When it comes to hyperactivity, many people will point the finger at sugar. According to the American Dietetic Association, sugar is not the direct cause, but sugar is associated with games, holidays, friends and exciting snacks. It is this association with pleasant events that makes children excited.

So how do we sweeten up our lives when we need to limit the added sugars?

For added taste, try adding some cinnamon to oatmeal, sprinkle ginger on some vegetables, add nutmeg to your coffee or add vanilla to your homemade cookies. Do not forget to add in whole fruits to satisfy that sweet tooth and pack in some vitamins.

If you would like further nutritional education, or would like to make an appointment with a dietitian, contact your base health and wellness center.