How Much Sugar Is in the Food We Eat?

Working to reduce the amount of added sugar you consume each day is a worthy goal, especially because many common foods and beverages provide extra sugar and calories but very little of the quality nutrition our bodies need.

On its own, sugar isn’t necessarily good or bad. It becomes a concern when you consume foods that are high in calories and added sugar but low in essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Many everyday foods, beverages, and condiments contain a surprising amount of added sugar without contributing much nutritional value. Cutting back on these sources of excess sugar is a good idea for both your well-being and your waistline.

But, there is no need to eliminate sugar completely, especially if you want to eat in a way that supports your health and wellness goals. Sugar and other carbohydrates are essential nutrients that play a vital role in many bodily functions, including in the nervous system and immune system. Not to mention that naturally occurring sugar is present in many of the delicious, nourishing foods we should enjoy every day.

Does Sugar Belong in a Healthy Diet?

Short answer: in controlled amounts, yes. When many people think of “sugar,” they often think of added sugar found in processed junk foods and desserts. However, simple sugars and other carbohydrates are naturally found in many nourishing foods that are important to a healthy diet like fruits, vegetables, dairy, legumes, and whole grains.

The table below provides a breakdown of how much sugar is naturally found in nutritious foods.

Dairy and Non-Dairy Beverages Sugar (g) Fruits Sugar (g)
5.3 oz container strawberry flavored nonfat Greek yogurt 16 1 medium apple 19
1 cup nonfat milk 12 1 cup cherries 13
1 cup plain soy milk 6 1 cup grapes 23
1 cup plain almond milk 7 1 mango 46
    1 cup coconut water 9
Grains and Legumes Sugar (g) Vegetables Sugar (g)
2 slices whole-grain bread 6 1 cup sweet potatoes, cubed 6
1 cup red kidney beans, cooked 5 1 bunch of broccoli 10
1 cup chickpeas, cooked 6 1 zucchini 8
1 cup green peas 4 1 large tomato 5
    1 small head of cabbage 23

Source: USDA Database for Standard Reference, Release 19

When you combine some of the foods from this list to create a balanced meal as shown in the following recipes, you might be surprised to see how much naturally occurring sugar is part of a healthful diet.

Vegan Protein Bowl

Ingredients Sugar (g) Calories
1 cup sweet potatoes, cubed 6 100
1 cup chickpeas, canned 6 164
1 cup quinoa, cooked 1 132
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned 5 50
1 cup cabbage, shredded 3 18
1 large tomato 5 26
Total 25 490

Source: USDA Database for Standard Reference, Release 19

Zoodles With Chunky Tomato Sauce

Ingredients Sugar (g) Calories
1 tbsp olive oil 0 120
½ cup white onion 2 18
2 cups diced tomatoes, canned 12 39
1 tbsp tomato paste 3 30
1 zucchini, spiralized 8 55
¼ lb ground lean turkey 0 220
Total 25 482

Source: USDA Database for Standard Reference, Release 19

When considered in the context of these healthful and nutritionally balanced recipes, 25 grams of naturally occurring sugar is nothing to be concerned about. It’s part of a nutrient-dense meal that also provides vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber for about 500 calories.

Sugar is a natural part of any balanced meal that’s intended to support a healthy lifestyle, which is why sugar is used purposefully to provide a natural sweetness and a source of carbohydrate in Isagenix products.

Those who use an Isagenix System are likely to reduce their dietary intake of sugars by a considerable amount. Each serving of IsaLean™ Shake provides about 11 grams of sugar, which is substantially less than the sugar you might receive from a healthful, balanced meal. This amount falls well within the American Heart Association’s recommendations for sugar intake as part of a healthy diet.

Limiting added sugar from desserts, beverages, and packaged snacks is good advice to follow, but getting targeted amounts of sugar from healthful, nutritious foods should not be a concern. If you’re aiming to reduce the amount of added sugar you get each day, an Isagenix System has the tools to help you reach your goal.

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Is ‘Exercise Snacking’ the New Way to Help Manage Blood Sugar?

For those trying to manage blood sugar, a healthy diet is key. However, while food choice is important, getting adequate physical activity is, too.

Many Americans fall short when it comes to the U.S. federal guidelines for physical activity, and this is especially true for people with type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that just 39 percent of people with type 2 diabetes engage in regular physical activity, compared to the 58 percent without diabetes who engage in regular physical activity (1). While taking up a new exercise routine may sound daunting, the truth is that those looking to improve their blood sugar control can reap some powerful benefits from adding a relatively small amount of physical activity into their routines.

“Exercise snacking” is similar to the idea of consuming small meals throughout the day, but involves breaking up exercise into small bouts throughout the day. This is helpful for those who have trouble getting the recommended amount of physical activity each day. The best part? Research has shown that this strategy works just as well or even better for blood sugar control than engaging in a single continuous bout of physical activity daily (2).

A study published in the journal Diabetologia tested the blood-sugar status of exercisers engaging in short, one-minute bouts of high-intensity exercise before meals, six times per day against an exercise group engaging in traditional continuous bouts of moderate-intensity physical activity for 30 minutes, once per day. The participants in the study were all beginning to show signs of insulin resistance, which is an early symptom in the development of type 2 diabetes—meaning their bodies were beginning to have trouble maintaining normal blood sugar levels (3).

The study found that those who completed just one minute of very high-intensity exercise before meals saw reduced blood sugar markers following their meals, and even more impressively, had lower blood sugar markers after 24 hours, when compared to the group that completed single 30-minute exercise sessions at a moderate intensity (2).

This isn’t the first time researchers have considered the benefits of breaking up exercises into shorter sessions. Another study found that 15-minute walks following meals was an effective strategy for quickly lowering blood sugar after meals in older individuals (4). Others in the fitness industry have speculated that shorter bouts of exercise spread throughout the day could be an effective way to encourage those who do not have an interest in traditional exercise routines.

Diabetes is a growing issue in the United States and around the world, but these studies highlight that simple lifestyle changes like adding some exercise into your routine can make all the difference. According to the 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “an estimated 33.9% of U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (84.1 million people) had pre-diabetes in 2015” (5). And according to the American Diabetes Association, “the total direct and indirect estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2012 was $245 billion” (6).

The development of pre-diabetes and diabetes is both costly and can lead to other more serious health complications. The good news is that adopting a more healthful lifestyle can help manage your risk. Healthy diet choices and increased physical activity can help to delay or even prevent progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes (7).  If something as simple as a few minutes of exercise spread throughout the day can help, it may be time for more people to give “exercise snacking” a try.

References:

  1. Morrato EH, Hill JO, Wyatt HR, Ghushchyan V, Sullivan PW. Physical activity in U.S. adults with diabetes and at risk for developing diabetes, 2003. Diabetes Care. 2007 Feb;30(2):203-9.
  2. Francois ME, Baldi JC, Manning PJ, Lucas SJ, Hawley JA, Williams MJ, Cotter JD. ‘Exercise snacks’ before meals: a novel strategy to improve glycaemic control in individuals with insulin resistance. Diabetologia. 2014 Jul;57(7):1437-45. doi: 10.1007/s00125-014-3244-6. Epub 2014 May 10.
  3. Prediabetes & Insulin Resistance. (2017, July 01). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance
  4. Loretta DiPietro, Andrei Gribok, Michelle S. Stevens, Larry F. Hamm, William Rumpler. Three 15-min Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance. Diabetes Care Oct 2013, 36 (10) 3262-3268; DOI: 10.2337/dc13-0084
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2017.
  6. American Diabetes Association. Economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. in 2012. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(4):1033–1046.
  7. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Long-term effects of lifestyle intervention or metformin on diabetes development and microvascular complications over 15-year follow-up: The Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015 Nov;3(11):866-75.

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