Sugars are classified as "simple carbohydrates," because their molecules are much smaller than those of starch, dietary fiber, and other complex carbohydrates. Since smaller molecules are also easier to digest, sugars can deliver their calories to the body faster than any other nutrient.
Sugar has a bad reputation¾it's been blamed for everything from cancer to hyperactivity in children. In fact, though, for most people sugar has only two solidly proven drawbacks:
1. It contributes to tooth decay.
2. Its "empty" calories displace foods that might provide important nutrients.
(Because sugar is 100-percent carbohydrate, it can be harmful to diabetics if consumed in the wrong amounts. Exactly how much is the wrong amount, however, is beyond the scope of this version of Diet Power. If you are diabetic, you should use the program only under supervision by your doctor.)
Your Daily Allowance
The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) has not set a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of sugar. In September 2002, however, the FNB recommended getting no more than 25 percent of one's calories from "added sugars," meaning those put in during processing.
For simplicity's sake, Diet Power divides everyone's Personal Daily Allowance (PDA) of total carbohydrate into 20 percent sugars and 80 percent complex carbohydrates. This will usually put your PDA of calories-from-added-sugar at 11 to 12 percent, because your PDA of total carbohydrate is 55 to 60 percent. (See Carbohydrate, Total.)
The FNB has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for sugars, but see its remark about "added sugars," above.
Revising Your Allowance
If your doctor suggests a different allowance, you can change it. See Personal Daily Allowances, Editing Your.
How Complete are Diet Power's Sugar Readings?
For the 8500 generic items in the Food Dictionary: terribly incomplete. About 96 percent list their sugar content as "unknown."
For the 2500 chain-restaurant items: fairly complete. Only 20 percent list sugar as "unknown."
For all 11,000 items combined: terribly incomplete. About 80 percent list sugar as "unknown."
These figures mean that your Nutrient History will almost always underreport your intake of sugar, unless you log mostly foods with sugar readings that you've added to the dictionary yourself.
To see whether a particular food has a sugar reading, open the Food Dictionary and check the food's nutrient profile. If you find a question mark beside "Sugar," it means the amount is unknown. (To see all foods with unknown sugar readings, click the dictionary's PowerFoods tab and sort the foods by sugar power; then scroll toward the bottom of the list until you see foods with question marks in the "Power Rating" column.)
Color Coding of This Nutrient
The sugars bar in your personal Nutrient History is:
· blue for "good" if you've logged 100 percent or less of your PDA
· red for "bad" if you've logged more than 100 percent of your PDA
· missing if you've logged no sugars.
In the nutrient profile of a food or recipe, the sugars bar is:
· green for "good" if getting your entire PDA of calories from this item would give you less than 50 percent of your PDA of sugars
· magenta for "bad" if getting all your calories from the item would give you more than 150 percent of your PDA of sugars
· blue for "neutral" otherwise
· missing if the amount of sugar is either zero or (when the word Sugars is grayed out) unknown.
Sugars on Food Labels
Most food labels are required to report sugar content. Since there is no official Daily Value for sugar, the amount is cited in grams. (The Diet Power Daily Value is 60 grams.)
For more on label regulations, see Labels, Food.