Americans consume 17 teaspoons of added sugars a day on average (more than one-third cup). That’s not to say we scoop that much into our coffee or tea. Sugar, in one form or another, is added to a huge variety of processed foods, from sweet drinks to cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, and even breads, yogurt, and seemingly savory condiments and sauces such as ketchup and tomato sauce. Sugars and high added-sugar foods are not healthful choices, and switching sweeteners (say, from high fructose corn syrup to raw cane sugar) is not the answer, according to the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
What is Sugar?: When people say “sugar,” they are generally thinking of the white crystals one would find in a sugar bowl, a product typically refined from sugar cane or sugar beets. Technically, the word “sugar” has a different meaning: a sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrate. There are three “simple” sugars (monosaccharides) in nature, glucose, fructose, and galactose. Every caloric sweetener in the natural world is formed from some combination of these three building blocks (most often glucose and fructose). Simple sugars are treated the same by our bodies whether we ingest them as sucrose (like table sugar) or as high fructose corn syrup. “There is no evidence of any difference in health impact between the major sugars in the U.S. food supply,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and editor-in-chief of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. “Refined sugars like cane sugar, beet sugar, and high fructose corn syrup are all metabolically equivalent. Whether or not honey or maple syrup have different health effects needs more study.”