The Sweet and Sour Facts About Sugar

Judging from food labels, a spoonful of sugar makes everything go down. You may wonder, though, how it affects your child's health. 

Although it's easy to blame sugar for tooth decay, hyperactivity, or obesity, the sweetener isn't always the villain.

Children do need some sugar

The type of sugar known as glucose serves as the main fuel for our brains. But that doesn't mean kids need to eat table sugar (sucrose).

Our bodies produce glucose from any type of carbohydrate, including fruits, starches, and vegetables.

Sugar is not toxic

Sugar itself is not toxic, but overuse can lead to health problems.

For example, sugary foods that stick to kids' teeth may cause cavities. So do bottles of sugar water given to babies at nap time. Children who drink a few cups of sweetened fruit juice a day consume less milk and tend to have a less nutritious diet overall.

Some parents insist their children are overactive after eating sweets, but there is no evidence that sugar causes hyperactivity.

Sugar alone can't cause obesity

It's hard to blame sugar for children's obesity. Overeating any type of macronutrient (fat, protein, or carbohydrate) will lead to weight gain. 

Banning sugar won't necessarily keep children at a healthy weight. Furthermore, banning sugar may actually drive the child to binge on sugar secretly. Instead, teach children to eat a limited amount of sugary foods and try to pick more nutritious foods whenever possible. 

Secret sugars

Not all sugar is obvious. 

Two tablespoons of barbecue sauce has 10 grams of sugar. 

You'll find sugars labeled as sucrose, fructose, lactose, and maltose in foods. Sugars are also found in high concentrations in fruit juice concentrates, honey, and molasses. Be sure to read food and beverage labels closely to avoid unwanted calories from added sugars.