School Nutrition Association April 2015 : Page 54

BY DAYLE HAYES, MS, RD Scoop on What’s the ? SUGAR’S FALL FROM NUTRITIONAL GRACE HAS BEEN SOMEWHAT RAPID. In the 1964 movie “Mary Poppins,” a spoonful of the sweet stuff helped the medicine go down. But a decade later, Sugar Blues by William Duffy was starting up the bestseller list as it decried “our generation’s greatest medical killer.” While American consumers have continued to consume it—in hundreds of pounds per year—for decades, today, 50 years after Julie Andrews’ cheerful song, headlines like “ Is Sugar More Addictive Than Cocaine? ” continue to pop up in all forms of media, from print and digital magazines to news channels and documentaries. While the fi nal answer to that provocative question about sugar addiction will have to wait for more research fi ndings to be produced, there’s no doubt that sugar has replaced fat as the “demon nutrient” of the day. With many scientists and reputable health professionals lined up on both sides of the sugar debate, it can be diffi cult to fi gure out how many spoonfuls of sugar you do want in your diet. There are complete textbooks, hundreds of research articles and dozens of websites devoted to all aspects of sugar controversies. Let’s outline the basics of sugar nutrition, providing some common-sense, science-based advice on how much you should sweat the sweet stuff. For many of you, there likely won’t be many surprises in most of this—you probably already know that you can get too much of a good thing! But School Nutrition hopes that you’ll enjoy the practical and tasty tips for taming your sweet tooth, and that you fi nd that adopting these strategies is much easier than you might imagine. Is it a sweet-tasting nutrient or a toxic, addictive substance? Sweet Talk There are two basic types of sweeteners: nutritive (which are carbohydrates and provide energy) and non-nutritive (which have few, if any calories). Seven non-nutritive sweeten-ers have been deemed to be safe and approved for use in the United States: acesulfame K, aspartame, luo han guo fruit extract, neotame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose. When people refer to “ sugar, ” they usually mean sucrose, which is a refi ned product made from sugar beets or sugar cane. Other sugars commonly found in food products include fructose (fruit, honey and some vegetables), lactose (dairy foods), maltose 54 School Nutrıtıon • APRIL 2015

What’s the Scoop on Sugar?

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Is it a sweet-tasting nutrient or a toxic, addictive substance?

SUGAR’S FALL FROM NUTRITIONAL GRACE HAS BEEN SOMEWHAT RAPID. In the 1964 movie “Mary Poppins,” a spoonful of the sweet stuff helped the medicine go down. But a decade later, Sugar Blues by William Duffy was starting up the bestseller list as it decried “our generation’s greatest medical killer.” While American consumers have continued to consume it—in hundreds of pounds per year—for decades, today, 50 years after Julie Andrews’ cheerful song, headlines like “Is Sugar More Addictive Than Cocaine?” continue to pop up in all forms of media, from print and digital magazines to news channels and documentaries.

While the final answer to that provocative question about sugar addiction will have to wait for more research findings to be produced, there’s no doubt that sugar has replaced fat as the “demon nutrient” of the day. With many scientists and reputable health professionals lined up on both sides of the sugar debate, it can be difficult to figure out how many spoonfuls of sugar you do want in your diet.

There are complete textbooks, hundreds of research articles and dozens of websites devoted to all aspects of sugar controversies. Let’s outline the basics of sugar nutrition, providing some common-sense, science-based advice on how much you should sweat the sweet stuff. For many of you, there likely won’t be many surprises in most of this—you probably already know that you can get too much of a good thing! But School Nutrition hopes that you’ll enjoy the practical and tasty tips for taming your sweet tooth, and that you find that adopting these strategies is much easier than you might imagine.

Sweet Talk

There are two basic types of sweeteners: nutritive (which are carbohydrates and provide energy) and non-nutritive (which have few, if any calories). Seven non-nutritive sweeteners have been deemed to be safe and approved for use in the United States: acesulfame K, aspartame, luo han guo fruit extract, neotame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose.

When people refer to “sugar,” they usually mean sucrose, which is a refined product made from sugar beets or sugar cane. Other sugars commonly found in food products include fructose (fruit, honey and some vegetables), lactose (dairy foods), maltose (molasses), corn-based sweeteners (such as high-fructose corn syrup) and agave nectar. The term added sugars refers to nutritive sweeteners that are added to foods during processing and recipe preparation. Along with providing sweet flavors, sugars may be added to foods and beverages for a variety of functional reasons, including to:

■ inhibit microbial growth by binding water in jams and jellies;

■ add texture, flavor and color to baked goods;

■ support the growth of yeast for leavening or fermentation;

■ contribute volume in ice cream, baked goods and jams;

■ enhance the creamy consistency of frozen desserts;.

■ enhance the crystallization of confectionary products;

■ balance acidity in salad dressings, sauces and condiments; and

■ help to maintain the natural color, texture and shape of preserved fruits.

It is difficult to determine exactly how many added sugars are present in a food or beverage. The grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts panel lumps together the amounts of added sugars, as well as those sugars naturally occurring in the item. For example, an 8-oz. carton of flavored milk might list 18 grams of sugar on its Nutrition Facts panel. That includes 12 grams of lactose (the sugar naturally occurring in dairy products) and 6 grams of added sugars (in the form of sucrose). There are roughly 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon, so the cup of milk would have 3 teaspoons of sugar coming directly from the cow and only 1.5 teaspoons added for flavoring.

While some websites suggest there is an “industry conspiracy” working to increase the sugar content of the food supply, it’s easy to see how adding more sugar to processed foods could happen with considerably less-nefarious intent. Sugar may be added to processed foods for two simple reasons: It has many functions, and humans naturally love sweet flavors.

Scientists now generally accept that a preference for sweetness is inborn rather than learned. One Finnish researcher suggests that a strong preference for sugar may be 50% genetic, about the same as the genetic predisposition for asthma. Some people clearly have a greater preference for sweetness than others, but the neuroscience jury is still out on the question of whether sugar can be considered “addictive” in the same sense as certain drugs or nicotine.

The Sour on Sweet

How much sugar are we consuming in the United States today? The short answer is the simple one: a lot more than we used to and probably more than any of us actually need. Consider the most recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey:

■ Children and teens consumed approximately 16% of their total caloric intake from added sugars.

■ Men consumed an average 12.7% of their calories from added sugars, compared to an average 13.2% among women.

■ The percentage of total calories consumed contributed by added sugars decreased with age for both men and women.

■ People with higher incomes tend to consume less added sugar than those with lower incomes.

■ About two-thirds of added sugars were consumed at home, mostly from food items rather than beverages.

This consumption of added sugars in the United States currently exceeds the recommendations for all age groups. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report released in February 2015 (see page 18) recommends limiting added sugars to a maximum of 10% of total daily caloric intake. For adults consuming 1,500 to 2,500 calories per day, this translates into no more than 150 to 250 calories from added sugars per day—roughly 10 to 15 teaspoons of added sugar. Consider that an average 12-oz. can of a “regular” soft drink has 150 calories—all from added sugars— and that’s the full amount you should have for the entire day!

The soft drink comparison is important. Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs, which include soft drinks, juice drinks and sports drinks) are the source of 39% of added sugars consumed in the United States. Snacks and sweets are the second largest source, at 31%, with much smaller amounts coming from a wide variety of other categories.

The chart on page 56 offers a good illustration of why many public and private initiatives to reduce sugar consumption focus squarely on SSBs. Consider so-called “sugar taxes” on large-portion SSBs, assessed in an effort to compel consumers to choose more appropriate portions. (Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative is the most well-known of these campaigns.) While many nutrition professionals favor an educational approach, some research shows that sugar taxes can reduce consumption.

The draft report for the upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), which will be officially released after the comment period and review by the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), clearly lays out the reasons for reducing our intake of added sugars. In this discussion, it is important to remember that no authority has suggested we need to reduce our intake of the sugars that are naturally found in fruits, vegetables and milk products. In fact, many Americans need to actually increase their consumption of items from these food groups.

Every five years, when the DGA Scientific Advisory Committee prepares its report, members analyze existing nutrition and dietary research studies and make decisions based on the strength of the evidence. Here’s what the Committee had to say about the connections between health and the intake of added sugars, starting with the strongest evidence:

■ Strong and consistent evidence shows that the intake of added sugars from food and SSBs is associated with higher body weights in both children and adults.

■ Strong evidence shows that higher intakes of added sugars “especially sugar-sweetened beverages,” increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults.

■ Moderate evidence shows that a higher intake of added sugars, “especially in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages,” is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

■ Moderate evidence shows a connection between the intake of “free sugars” (defined as a little broader than added sugars but not “total sugars”) and dental caries (aka “cavities”) in children and adults.

That’s the evidence, folks. It is not absolute proof that eating and drinking too many added sugars will cause you to get diabetes or heart disease. However, we certainly now know enough to be confident in saying that too many added sugars is not good for your health. But you knew that already, right? The question is: What do you want to do about added sugar consumption for yourself and your family?

Gimme Some Sugar...Just a Little

When it comes to the “sugar wars,” opinions are a dime a dozen. You can find MDs, RDs, PhDs and activists with advice all along the spectrum, from “eat no toxic sugar” to “sugar really isn’t a problem, it’s just about calories.” Some of the sanest advice came from a recent statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on School Health, Committee on Nutrition. This policy statement, Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools, is an incredibly important resource for anyone who works in school nutrition. You can download a free PDF of the full 11-page position to share with school administrators, wellness committees/councils and concerned parents at http://tinyurl.com/AAP-sugar-schools.

While the guidance in the AAP statement is aimed at children and schools, the advice applies just as well to adults and to meals eaten at and away from home. And you may be surprised to realize that the AAP five-point plan comes almost full circle to Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar advice. Let’s break down each point and see how you can apply it in your daily life.

1. Select a mix of foods from the five key food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, lowfat dairy and quality protein sources (including lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs). This age-old recommendation continues to prevail for good reason. When you focus on foods from the basic food groups, you reduce your added-sugar intake—and get more of the nutrients that most Americans are missing.

2. Offer a variety of food experiences. Adults can benefit from new food experiences, too. If you want to reduce your own intake of SSBs, but don’t want to give up the fizz or the sweet flavors, try mixing sparkling water half and half with juice. Or, keep a pitcher in the fridge filled with water and slices of citrus fruit, berries or cucumber. Fill an on-the-go water bottle directly with this refreshing combination.

Want to eat more vegetables that might appeal to your sweet tooth? Have you tried roasting sweet potatoes, beets, turnips and other root vegetables with a little olive oil? These can be considered “underground candy,” because roasting brings out the natural sweetness in these foods.

3. Avoid highly processed foods. This does not mean that you have to cook everything from scratch, make your own pasta, can your own peaches and avoid anything in a package! It does mean decreasing your reliance on the proportion of your daily or weekly diet that features fastfoods and convenience foods. When you are pressed for time, think “speed scratch,” which can involve salad mix in a bag, fresh roasted meats pre-sliced for a stir-fry or quick-cooking steel-cut oats. When you have more time, cook double meals, so you have plenty of “plannedovers” in the fridge and freezer for those busy periods.

4. Use small amounts of sugar, salt, fats and oils as ingredients in highly nutritious recipes to enhance enjoyment and consumption. This Mary Poppins-like tip is the sanest advice of all. You don’t need to sweat the small amounts of sugar found in most yogurts and flavored milks. There’s no need to fret over using a bit of sugar to help bring out the flavor in fresh tomato sauce or adding a little fruit jam on your whole-wheat toast. Rather than worry about small amounts of sweet stuff, reduce the number of supersized portions you’re consuming.

5. Offer appropriate portions. You’ve heard this one before, right? Super-sized anything is probably not-so-good for your body. This is especially true for SSBs. Drinking a quart of sugar water is never going to make nutritional sense.

Enjoying the Sweet Life

Once again, tips about eating with balance, variety and moderation hit the sweet spot! Let’s end with just a few more flavorful tips about taming your sweet tooth—without driving yourself crazy.

If you are confused by the claims that various sugars are more “toxic” than others, ignore these. Current research shows that all sugars, even high-fructose corn syrup, seem to be processed by your body in a similar way. Soda made with sucrose, fructose or agave nectar is still a can of empty calories—with no redeeming vitamins, minerals, protein or antioxidants. If you really want a soft drink, have a single can, rather than a humongous cup. Enjoy whatever type you prefer, but do not pretend that it is a nutrient-rich beverage.

If you use non-nutritive (aka lowcalorie or artificial sweeteners), do so in moderation. According to the 2015 DGA Scientific Advisory Committee Report, “[S]ince the long-term effects of low-calorie sweeteners are still uncertain, those sweeteners should not be recommended for use as a primary replacement-substitute for added sugars in foods and beverages.”

There is no need to panic if you have a can of diet soda, but a six-pack-a-day habit of anything, except water, is probably not good for your body.

You can enjoy the sweet life. But do so by applying some nutrition smarts.

Dayle Hayes is a nutrition consultant and speaker based in Billings, Mont. She also maintains the School Meals That Rock Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SchoolMealsThatRock). You can reach her at EatWellatSchool@gmail.com. Photography by iStock/jiunlimited.com.

TO YOUR CREDIT: For CEUs toward an SNA certificate, complete the “To Your Credit” test on page 52.

Read the full article at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/What%E2%80%99s+the+Scoop+on+Sugar%3F/1962550/251113/article.html.

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