Sugar (or sucrose) is a carbohydrate that makes your food taste sweet. It is made up of two smaller carbohydrates called fructose and glucose. Your body uses these sugars for energy so you can run and play. Sugar can be used very quickly by your body, so sometimes it makes you feel giddy and very energetic if you eat too much at once. Your body stores unused energy in the form of glycogen in your liver.
The white grains of sugar you are used to come from a plant called sugar cane. The sugar cane goes to a refinery where it is refined into grain form. Foods like honey and maple syrup are also made of sugar but look and taste a little different because they come from different sources.
Some foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy contain natural sugars. The sugar in milk products is called lactose. People who can’t eat this type of sugar are called “lactose intolerant.” Scientists can also turn foods like corn into a form of sugar called high-fructose corn syrup.
Sugar is Everywhere!
In 2012, kids were getting about 16% of their calories from sugar. This is more than the 5-15% recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Many food makers will add sugar to things that don’t really need it! For example, many companies will add sugar to foods like your ketchup, drinks, yogurt, or breads. Look for things that have added sugar and try to avoid or limit these foods.
Plain sugar doesn’t actually contain any nutritional value. That is why we say that a lot of sugary foods have “empty calories.” If you eat too much sugar, you can actually become addicted to it.
Sugar Can Be Good to Eat Sometimes
- Sugar makes food taste sweeter.
- Sugar can act as a preservative in foods like jams or canned fruits. It makes it last longer without spoiling.
- Bread rises because sugar works with yeast to make the bread puff up.
Sugar Can Also Be Bad For You
- Sugar can be bad for your teeth because bacteria who like to eat sugar will rot your teeth and cause cavities. It’s important to always brush your teeth twice a day!
- Too much sugar in drinks can make kids gain too much weight so they are unhealthy. One 12-ounce sweetened soft drink contains 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. That’s a lot!
- Sugar is often in foods that contain a lot of fat and not very many other vitamins and minerals. Things like cakes and cookies are only okay to eat every once in awhile. Don’t overdo it!
- Sugar is really sweet so sometimes our taste buds become numb to the sweetness. If you eat less sugar over a period of several days, then foods with natural sugars (like strawberries or carrots) will start to taste sweeter. Try it!
What Can You Do To Be Healthier?
- Instead of drinking sodas and high sugar juices, drink things like water, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit juice.
- Check the nutrition label on your food. Avoid foods that have sugar listed high on the ingredient’s list. (Sugar can also appear on the label as “corn syrup, sweetener, dextrose, honey, fructose, molasses, or HFCS.”)
- Instead of eating candy and cakes, try eating more foods with natural sugars like fruit and vegetables.
- Limit cereals that have a lot of added sugar. Instead, eat whole grain cereals and add fruit, nuts, or cinnamon if you want to make it taste better.
- Sugar (or sucrose) is a ________________ that makes your food taste sweet.
- The sugar in milk products is called _______________.
- In 2012, kids were getting about ___________ of their calories from sugar.
- We say that a lot of sugary foods have “__________________________________.”
- Sugar can act as a ___________________________ in foods like jams or canned fruits.
- Too much sugar in drinks can make kids gain too much weight so they are ________________.
- Instead of eating candy and cakes, try eating more foods with _________________ sugars like fruit and vegetables.