Grosse Pointe & Shelby Township


Why It’s Hard to Avoid Eating Sugar & How It Affects Your Teeth

Why it's hard to avoid eating sugar - Woman holding an apple and large lollypop in her hands.

It’s no myth that eating large amounts of sugar is unhealthy. Sugar offers no nutritional benefits, is high in calories and can be addictive. Most people take some steps to try and reduce the amount of sugar in their diet. But are you eating sugar more frequently than you think? Probably! Find out which foods are surprisingly high in sugar and how food companies hide sugars in foods you think are healthy.

How Much Sugar You’re Really Eating

Sugar consumption peaked in 1999, with Americans consuming about 111 grams of sugar daily. While that number has gone down, Americans still consume an average of 94 grams of sugar every day. The recommended daily average is around 50 grams of added sugar for an adult male who eats a typical 2,000 calorie diet. Most people eat nearly twice the recommended amount every day!

One of the major problems that caused this is the rise of “healthy” food options that are surprisingly loaded with sugar. Here are a few examples:

Yogurt – Many yogurts promote themselves as healthy with “low-fat” labels. However, low-fat yogurts typically replace fat with sugar for taste. A single cup of low-fat yogurt can contain nearly 50 grams of sugar, equal to your recommended daily value.

Ketchup – Unarguably one of the most popular condiments available, ketchup is often loaded with sugar. A single serving of a popular brand of ketchup contains four grams of sugar. When put on a burger or paired with French fries, most will use between two and four servings, which amounts to 12 or 16 grams of sugar. That’s a lot – especially if it’s paired with a sugary soda.

Fruit Juice – Many parents turn to fruit-based foods for good health, but fruit juice is far from healthy. Most fruit juices use added sugar to restore flavor after processing, and the sugar overload is far more than you would consume from simply eating the whole fruit. One cup can have around 23 grams, depending on the fruit.

Protein Bars – Another faux-health food option, protein bars can supplement their flavors by packing up to 20 grams of sugar in them. It is important to note that they still offer more satiety than other candy bars, so they may stop you from snacking. But if you’re avoiding sugar, check the label first!

Salad Dressing – While it’s not a surprise that these have sugar, the amount can be staggering. One serving of salad dressing can add another 10 grams of sugar to your otherwise healthy salad. Like yogurt, “light” or “fat-free” options substitute the flavor of natural fats for added sugars.

Your best option is to always pay attention to labels and to stick to foods that are a good for your body. Food labels can be tricky – while they may advertise their health benefits, they can be hiding a lot of sugar. Food that says it’s a “good source of calcium” or “uses whole wheat” isn’t lying – but it’s not always telling the whole truth.

Natural Sugars vs. Added Sugars

There’s a lot of confusion around sugars, largely because of “added sugars” and “natural sugars.” While it may seem like it doesn’t matter, there’s a massive difference between the two. In fruits and even vegetables, there are natural sugars called fructose. Despite being sugars, they’re stored inside fiber. Fiber doesn’t digest as easily as other nutrients, and that means the sugar is broken down much more slowly. Because it digests slowly, it takes longer to be absorbed and impact your liver.

On the other hand, added sugars aren’t constrained by fiber. They’re simply added into other easily digested foods where they can be quickly absorbed and converted into fat. When you eat foods with added sugars, your body must handle a much larger amount of sugar at one time than it’s intended to.

Because of the difference, fruits and other foods with natural sugars are not considered to be as dangerous for your overall health. However, citrus fruits also contain natural acids, which can directly wear away at the enamel in your teeth. Just like any other foods, always eat them in moderation and remember to brush your teeth!

How to Spot Added Sugars

Added sugar goes by many names, which can make it hard to tell when you’re eating sugar or not. There are over 50 different labels for sugar and substitute sweeteners that contain sugars. If you come across any of these, you’re still eating sugar:

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Liquid fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Sucrose
  • Molasses
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Malt Syrup
  • Maple Syrup
  • Carbitol
  • Fruit Juice Concentrates

And that’s just a fraction of the other names! If your goal is to reduce the sugar in your diet to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, you need to pay close attention to food labels and ingredients. When you see an ingredient you don’t recognize, find out what it really is before you eat it. Sugar is sugar – if you get it from added sugars or naturally occurring foods like honey, your body still processes it in much the same way.

The Truth Behind “Sugar-Free”

Food producers sneak sugar into foods in other ways than just using another name. The label “sugar-free” doesn’t mean the food contains zero sugar. The biggest surprise is that the FDA only requires that a food have less than .5 grams of sugar per serving to earn the sugar-free label. If you pay attention to serving sizes, you can see how most pre-packaged sugar-free foods can have much more sugar than they let on.

Secondly, many foods use the sugar-free label to specifically refer to added white sugar. These recipes substitute other sweeteners which often have just as much sugar in them, but aren’t “added.” Some examples are fruit concentrates and agave nectar, both contain significant amounts of sugars. By using non-traditional sweeteners, they can trick you into eating sugar even when you’re trying to avoid it.

How Eating Sugar Damages Your Teeth

It’s well-known that eating sugar leads to cavities – but many don’t know the exact connection between the two. Your mouth is full of bacteria. No matter how consistent you are at brushing and flossing, it’s impossible to have a bacteria-free mouth. When they find sugar in your mouth, they use it for energy. After the consume the sugar, they leave behind acidic waste that sits on your teeth to dissolve and damage them.

When you brush, you not only remove the bacteria, you also remove the remnants of food that the bacteria consume as well as the acidic byproducts. The longer you go between brushing, the more these build up. Over time, with poor dental care, the acids continue to wear away at your teeth. At the same time, the bacteria cause inflammation to your gums, which when untreated, progresses from gum disease into more severe periodontal disease.

Don’t Let Tooth Decay Damage Your Teeth – Schedule an Appointment!

The dental professionals at Pointe Dental Group can answer all your questions about tooth decay or gum disease and how you can prevent them. Schedule an appointment with our dentists in Shelby Township and Grosse Pointe Farms, or call and take the first step toward keeping your gums healthy.

Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480

Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300

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