Hi there! In keeping with the theme of New Year’s Resolutions, I wanted to let you know about something that is adversely affecting our health– added sugars. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to food and beverages when they are processed or prepared. Many people consume much more sugar than what is recommended every day. Consuming too many added sugars leads to health problems.
What are sources of added sugars?
Added sugars are most commonly found in sweetened beverages (soda pop, juice cocktails, sports drinks, sweet tea), grain-based desserts (such as cookies, cakes, pies, pastries), candy, and dairy desserts (ice cream and sweetened yogurts).
Lactose and fructose are naturally occurring sugars found in milk and fruit. They are NOT considered to be added sugars.
Some foods that are generally thought to be healthy often contain hefty amounts of added sugars such as tomato sauce, salad dressing, granola bars, yogurt, wheat bread, and nut butter.
What are the consequences of too much sugar?
Consuming too much sugar leads to a multitude of health problems such as:
- Tooth decay
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High triglyceride levels
- High levels of LDL (“bad cholesterol”)
- Low levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”)
How much added sugar is too much?
According to the American Heart Association, men should not consume more than 9 teaspoons (or 150 calories) of added sugars per day. For women, no more than 6 teaspoons (or 100 calories) of added sugars per day.
For reference, there are four calories in one gram of sugar. So, if a product contains 15 grams of sugar in one serving, that equals 60 calories from sugar. Take into consideration that a 12-ounce can of soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar (or more) and absolutely zero nutrition. Label reading is very important!
Speaking of reading labels, know that sugar is disguised as many different names on ingredient lists. Examples include: brown sugar, brown rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, confectioner’s sugar, dextrose, fructose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, nectars, sucrose, and granulated sugar. This is not an exhaustive list!
How to cut back on sugar
Research suggests that sugar is as addictive as drugs such as cocaine. Breaking bad habits starts with small steps. Here are some tips for reducing sugar:
- Substitute water or other unsweetened drinks for soda and other sweetened beverages
- Low-fat milk and occasional use of 100% fruit juice can help meet goals for dairy and fruit intake
- Choose naturally sweetened fruit for dessert cravings
- Think of sweet desserts like cookies, cake, ice cream as an occasional treat and choose small portions
- Look for packaged foods such as unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt that contain no added sugars
What about artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners do not add any calories, making them popular among diabetics and dieters. Artificial sweeteners are okay to use in moderation but should not replace healthy food/drink choices.
Sugar substitutes increase cravings for more sweet and sugary foods. They also alter gut bacteria and increase fat storage. The jury is still out regarding whether or not aspartame (Equal) causes cancer in humans. However, there have been studies on rats in the past which suggest that high-doses of aspartame caused certain types of blood-related cancers.
Occasional use of artificial sweeteners is probably okay. However, people should not consume them excessively.
We could all be more mindful of how much sugar we are consuming. Cutting back gradually and finding healthier alternatives to sugar is one more step towards better health!
Do you have a sugar addiction? How will you try to break the habit? Let me know in the comments!
Disclaimer: Information contained in this post should not be substituted for medical advice. Therefore, if you think you are having a problem, contact your own provider who knows your health history.