What's The Deal With Natural Sugars? How Much Is Too Much?

These days, it seems everyone is talking about sugar. And if you've been listening to the conversations, you may find yourself feeling a little confused. Should we be treating natural sugar sources, like fruits and vegetables, the same way we treat added sugars? Do we need to be cautious about ALL sugars?

Well, we've got some answers for you!

When we think about it, we can all understand why it is important to avoid added sugars. They cause nothing but trouble in the body and provide absolutely NO nutrition. These added sugars are most commonly found in the form of refined white sugar and don't occur naturally in the food we are eating. When consumed beyond the daily recommended totals, these sugars can tax your liver (leading to fat storage), lower your "good" HDL cholesterol levels, disrupt the balance in your gut bacteria, and create an addictive cycle that releases feel good chemicals in your brain and keeps you coming back for more!  

According to the American Heart Association, added sugars should be limited to 37.5 grams a day for men and 25 grams for women. If we are avoiding added sugars, does this mean we should also be avoiding fruits and vegetables that are high in natural sugars?

Simply put, no.

Registered dietitian, Lara Felton, explained to POPSUGAR, "there is no cap on natural sugars, the kind of sugar found in fruits, veggies, and dairy [these natural sugars are known as fructose and lactose]... Most Americans don't eat enough fruits and veggies daily anyway, so the recommendation is to encourage more, not less."  

Fruits and vegetables are good, natural foods and we should not neglect them because we are concerned about sugar consumption. Fruits and vegetables are full of many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are important for a healthy, properly functioning body. One of the things most fruits and vegetables contain is fiber. Fiber helps to slow your digestion and prevents you from over eating. So even if you are getting sugar in your produce, it will be much harder for you to go overboard. You should be getting between  seven and nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day and two to four servings of dairy (for creative ways to work these servings into your day, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan). What's more, these foods likely contain less sugar than you think, again making it more difficult to go overboard.

But, if you are choosing to get your fruit and veggies in juice form, you need to be careful. "Juices have a slight caveat — one cup of 100-percent fruit juice (not additives, preservatives, or sweeteners, just juice from the whole fruit) counts as a serving of fruit," says Felton. "However, fruit juice has more calories than a whole piece of fruit so you need to make sure if you're drinking juice, it fits within your calorie needs for the day. Less of a worry about the natural sugars in 100-percent fruit juice and more about making sure you aren't overdoing it on the calories." It is also important to note that juicing your produce can remove most of the fiber, and therefore lower the nutritional value.

If you simply cannot live without sweetening your food, aim for something more natural than table sugar. Try some maple syrup, honey, or agave. But remember, while they are less processed than refined white sugar, they are not considered natural sugars and still count towards your daily added sugar total.

Look at it this way, added sweeteners, even less processed ones, are still considered to be added sugar.

Does this clear things up for you? Share your thoughts with us!

1 comment

I am so confused… Some articles say that it should be limited… some say it shouldn’t be limited and not to worry about it… I JUST DONT KNOW WHAT SHOULD I BELIEVE IN. Can you explain it to me? Why all the articles say different.

Eva Berže August 08, 2019

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