Sure, everyday there's a new trend when it comes to nutrition and health. Today may be that tomatoes are the new kale, while tomorrow a select group of scientists may prove tomatoes carry more E.Coli than any other fruit... eat with caution! It's nearly impossible for the average person to debunk the myths and sort out the credible information via all the mass information that is presented. Don't worry, even as a health professional, it still gets overwhelming!
But, rest assured, the recent sugar discussion is here to stay and for good reason. Americans are at a point in our society that over 67% are considered overweight or obese. It's no wonder this statistic is so high when you look at the volume of processed foods high in caloric contents and void of nutritional value that are consumed on daily basis. Sure, it may say "100 calorie pack," but turn that label around you'd be surprised to learn for those 100 calories, you're racking up not only 15% of your daily value of saturated fat but also almost 10 grams of sugar!
It's the added sugars we need to focus on, not the natural, fresh sugars present in delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables. For instance, take for instance a delicious fresh bowl of seasonal blueberries. One cup of this antioxidant boosting, fiber packed fuel has just under 15 grams of natural sugars, is fat free and has less than 70 calories. These natural sugars are part of the carbohydrate content of the blueberry that provide energy and essential nutrition to fuel our body.
Now, let's take for instance one blueberry flavored toaster pastry. At 200 calories with 5 grams of total fat, 1.5 grams coming from saturated fat, less than 1 gram of fiber and 16 grams of sugar, you're fueling your body with simple sugars with no nutritional value. Though both options have 16 grams of sugar, the fresh, natural sugars from the blueberries provide a more nutrient dense option (think more bang for your nutrition buck) than one toaster pastry.
Bottom line: Sugar is not sinful; it's about balance and moderation with your dietary choices. When you focus on limiting added sugars while fueling your body with fresh, natural foods that contain natural sugars, your heart, body, mind and waist line will thank you later!
Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, is a San Diego based dietitian. She is owner of Elizabeth Shaw Consulting Services, in which she offers individual, corporate and food service consulting services. She an adjunct professor in Nutrition at San Diego Mesa Community College and is the Dining Dietitian for the University of California San Diego. Read her blog, Simple-Swaps, and connect with her on Facebook and Pinterest.