Choose a Diet Moderate in Sugars
Sugars come in many forms
Sugars are carbohydrates. Dietary carbohydrates also include the
complex carbohydrates starch and fiber. During digestion all carbohydrates
except fiber break down into sugars. Sugars and starches occur naturally
in many foods that also supply other nutrients. Examples of these
foods include milk, fruits, some vegetables, breads, cereals, and
grains. Americans eat sugars in many forms, and most people like
their taste. Some sugars are used as natural preservatives, thickeners,
and baking aids in foods; they are often added to foods during processing
and preparation or when they are eaten. The body cannot tell the
difference between naturally occurring and added sugars because
they are identical chemically.
Sugars, health, and weight maintenance
Scientific evidence indicates that diets high in sugars do not cause
hyperactivity or diabetes. The most common type of diabetes occurs
in overweight adults. Avoiding sugars alone will not correct overweight.
To lose weight reduce the total amount of calories from the food
you eat and increase your level of physical activity.
If you wish to maintain your weight when you eat less fat, replace
the lost calories from fat with equal calories from fruits, vegetables,
and grain products, found in the lower half of the Food Guide Pyramid.
Some foods that contain a lot of sugars supply calories but few
or no nutrients (box 12). These foods are located at the top of
the Pyramid. For very active people with high calorie needs, sugars
can be an additional source of energy. However, because maintaining
a nutritious diet and a healthy weight is very important, sugars
should be used in moderation by most healthy people and sparingly
by people with low calorie needs. This guideline cautions about
eating sugars in large amounts and about frequent snacks of foods
and beverages containing sugars that supply unnecessary calories
and few nutrients.
Sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, saccharin, and aspartame are
ingredients in many foods. Most sugar substitutes do not provide
significant calories and therefore may be useful in the diets of
people concerned about calorie intake. Foods containing sugar substitutes,
however, may not always be lower in calories than similar products
that contain sugars. Unless you reduce the total calories you eat,
the use of sugar substitutes will not cause you to lose weight.
Sugars and dental caries
Both sugars and starches can promote tooth decay. The more often
you eat foods that contain sugars and starches, and the longer these
foods are in your mouth before you brush your teeth, the greater
the risk for tooth decay. Thus, frequent eating of foods high in
sugars and starches as between-meal snacks may be more harmful to
your teeth than eating them at meals and then brushing. Regular
daily dental hygiene, including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste
and flossing, and an adequate intake of fluoride, preferably from
fluoridated water, will help you prevent tooth decay (box 13).
ADVICE FOR TODAY
Use sugars in moderation -- sparingly if your calorie needs are
low. Avoid excessive snacking, brush with a fluoride toothpaste,
and floss your teeth regularly. Read the Nutrition Facts Label on
foods you buy. The food label lists the content of total carbohydrate
and sugars, as well as calories.