Nutrition Tip of the Week

Author: Heather K. Mackie, MS, RD, LD

Week of March 18, 2013

Spot the Sugar!

As a bariatric patient, you are probably aware of sugar.  However, sugar can be found as many different forms in food.  If you are a gastric bypass patient, it is very important to view the sugar content to prevent dumping syndrome.  However, it is important for all patients to be aware of sugar content as sugar is a carbohydrate and carbohydrates have calories.  Remember some carbohydrates are good for the body and not all carbs are equal (please refer to blog post from the week of October, 15, 2012 for more information on this topic).  Some sugar intake (from certain foods) is not necessarily a bad thing and is safe for most bariatric patients to consume.  In this blog, we will review what some of those sugar-containing foods might be that would most likely be considered safe to consume as a bariatric patient (be sure to always talk to your healthcare provider – surgeon, dietitian, nurse, etc. before making any changes to your long-term eating plan).

Balance. It is important to balance our carbohydrate (sugar) intake with protein and/or fiber.  Too much sugar taken in at one time will cause your blood sugar to rise and then drop quickly leaving you feeling fatigued.  By incorporating protein and/or fiber it helps to reduce how high the blood sugar rises and how low it will drop.  By keeping your blood sugar in a more normal range, without the extreme highs and lows will help you to feel your best and give you the most energy long-term.

How Much? On average Americans are eating 352 calories per day from sugar.  Recent recommendations have suggested that women limit sugar intake to 100 calories or 6 tsp per day, while men limit to 150 calories or 9 tsp per day.  It is important to talk to your dietitian to come up with a plan just for you, as everyone may be slightly different based on his or her individual medical history and the aforementioned recommendation is for the general population, not someone who has had bariatric surgery.

Added Sugars. While many foods naturally contain sugar, some foods have added sugar.  Examples of foods that contain natural sugar include fruit and milk.  Fruit contains fructose, while milk contains lactose.  While these are natural sugars and are metabolized the same as white sugar, they are still better options if you want something sweet.  Why you ask?  Well fruit (like an apple for example) also contains many vitamins and minerals that help your body to function at its best, as well as fiber.  Fiber helps to control blood sugar, make you feel full, and helps to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract.  Milk is a great source of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and protein among many other things!

Examples of foods that contain added sugars include pastry-style desserts and sodas.  While these foods have sugar and that sugar is metabolized the same as the sugar in the above-mentioned foods, they often do not have other benefits like the fruit and milk (fiber, calcium, vitamin D, protein, etc.).  They are just high calorie, high sugar foods with nothing else to offer.

Spotting Sugar on Food Labels. As stated above, sugar can come in many different forms in foods.  Below are a few ways you may find sugar in foods you eat:

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Sugar in the raw
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Molasses
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Cane juice
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • All fruit juice concentrates, including pear and apple
  • All “-ose” ending items, including dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, etc.

Natural Versus Refined. Contrary to popular belief, there is really no conclusive evidence supporting the use of “natural” sugars at this time.  Natural forms of sugars are metabolized the same way in the body as refined sugar.  They each have the same amount of calories per gram (i.e., 4 calories per gram).  However, with that said some forms of natural sugar, may include other nutrients beneficial to the body (example: fruit and milk example above).  But as we know there are many individuals that prefer to keep synthetic products out of their eating plan.

The key is to focus on the amount of sugar you consume within your healthy eating plan.  Overall, just like anything, everything in moderation.  Hopefully this blog will help you to find the hidden sugars so you can continue on your journey to wellness and continue to CELEBRATE success!

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