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Sugar Facts

What is sugar?
How is sugar used by the body?
How much sugar do I need in my diet?
Which foods contain large amounts of sugar?
What are the negative health effects of eating too much sugar?
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What is sugar?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, which can either be a monosaccharide or disaccharide.  Monosaccharides include glucose, fructose, and galactose.  These three monosaccharides can join together to make the disaccharides maltose, surose, and lactose.  These compounds are found in the foods we eat and are collectively called ‘sugar’. The following is a list of mono- and disaccharides, as well as where they can be found naturally:

GlucoseFructoseGalactose
Sugar in the bloodFruit SugarSugar Beets
SucroseLactoseMaltose
Table sugarMilk SugarMalted (barley) Beer


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How is sugar used by the body?

Sugar gives the body energy.  Actually, it is the only source of energy for the brain and red blood cells.  Each gram of sugar contains 4 calories.  Unlike complex carbohydrates, sugars are digested quickly and are easily broken down into glucose, which is then used for energy.  If a lot of sugar is eaten at one time, blood sugar levels can spike, which can increase the risk for developing diabetes.

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How much sugar do I need in my diet?

Limiting the amount of sugar in the diet is important to your health. Sugar should account for fewer than 10% of your daily calories.  This equates to 200 calories of sugar (50g) for a person eating 2000 calories a day.

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Which foods contain large amounts of sugar?

Sugar can be found in a wide variety of foods ranging from fruits to candy. It is important to determine the source of the sugar in your diet.  Most of our sugar should come from fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, which contain natural sugars and also include vitamins and minerals.

Added sugar is found in items such as cakes, candy bars, sodas, and fruit juices.  These items contain additional sweeteners in addition to the naturally occurring sugars.  Foods with added sugars tend to be high in calories and low in vitamins and minerals.

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What are the negative health effects of eating too much sugar?

A diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, nutrient deficiencies, cavities, and dental plaque.

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