Grouping sugars found naturally in fruits and vegetables together with sugars added to processed and prepared foods is the wrong strategy when it comes to reducing sugar intake for improved heart-health. A recent story by Science Daily discusses a study by the University of Illinois about the health benefits of soluble fiber found in apples, nuts and oats, and the production of an anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-4. Heart disease causes inflammation in the cells, and reducing inflammation helps boost the immune system.
AHA’s recommended dietary added sugar
For a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating four-and-a-half servings of fruits and vegetables. Of course, this includes the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits and vegetables. The AHA also suggests limiting daily “dietary added sugar” to 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men.
Comparing apples to granola bars
For a better understanding of the relationship between naturally occurring sugar and dietary added sugars, compare two popular snacks high in sugar: an apple and a Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bar. An average apple contains approximately 13 grams of sugar, 65 calories, 3 grams of fiber and no fat calories. A single-serving granola bar has 12 grams of sugar, 180 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 60 fat calories.
Manufacturers aren’t required to distinguish between added dietary sugar and naturally occurring sugar on the nutrition facts panel, so we need read the list of ingredients to determine if the sugar found in the granola bar is added or occurs naturally. Nature Valley Cinnamon Crunchy Granola Bars list whole grain oats, sugar, canola oil, yellow corn flour, brown sugar syrup, soy flour, salt, cinnamon, soy lecithin and baking soda. Since naturally occurring sugar found in the oats and yellow corn flour is minimal, we can conclude that the snack contains almost 12 grams of added sugar from ingredients listed: sugar and brown sugar syrup.
Naturally occurring sugar vs. dietary added sugar
Although an apple and a granola bar have almost equal amounts of sugar, the granola bar contains “added dietary sugar,” not to mention added fat calories. Whereas an apple has no added sugar and helps fulfill the AHA’s daily recommendation for fruits and vegetables. And according to the Illinois University study, apples may even help control inflammation associated with heart disease.