Sugary Sweet Truth

Who doesn’t love the taste of sugar? While some people have a stronger sweet tooth than others, most people still consume way too much sugar in their diets.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of “added” sugars you consume to no more than 25- 35g of sugar per day, or 6-9 leveled teaspoons. This range is based on your specific calorie needs or activity level, weight, and gender.

Excess sugar consumption has been linked to inflammation, obesity, and obesity-related illnesses such as Diabetes and Heart Disease, as well as dental problems. Consuming high amounts of sugar can also negatively affect appetite, mood, energy, sleep, and overall well-being.

So what is the difference between “added” sugars and “natural?” Well, most added sugars are found in sodas, candy, sweets, ice cream, sweetened beverages, cereals, certain bread products, etc. Natural sugar is not added, but found naturally in foods such as fruits and milk, or plain yogurt. While this type of sugar can also have an impact on blood sugar, it contains significantly more nutrients, such as vitamins, water, protein and fiber that help balance out the sugar effect.

As a consumer, its important to always be reading the entire package, front and back, to make sure you know exactly what you’re putting into you and your family’s bodies. Here are a few tips to keep in mind next time you’re in the store to keep your sugar intake in check:

1) Look at the food label – Aim for products that have at most 8g of sugar per serving. This is particularly important when picking out cereals, snack bars, and beverages. Don’t just trust the front of the package when it misleads you with “no added sugars.” The product could still be loaded with sugar on its own.

2) Choose naturally sweet foods but still eat within limits – Fresh fruits are great, but the sugar in dried fruits can add up quickly so stick to small portions and vary your fruit intake with lower-sugar vegetables. Flavor plain oatmeal or yogurts with fresh fruit instead of dried fruit or honey. Even though honey can be an all-natural food, it packs in up to 17g of sugar for just 1 tablespoon.

3) Check ingredient list – added sugars are most commonly listed as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, corn syrup solids, malt syrup, maltose, sucrose, nectars, agave, honey, white granulated sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, and evaporated cane juice.

4) Buy whole or single-ingredient foods and DIY – craving a cookie? Make it yourself from scratch. You’ll appreciate it more, and baking is a form of exercise. In addition, the more you cook or bake at home the better in control you’ll be of what goes in to your body. You can always half the amount of sugar that the recipe calls for or, use lower glycemic sweeteners like stevia, cinnamon, cocoa powder, fresh fruit, and canned pumpkin.

5) Indulge in moderation – As mentioned earlier, a little sugar in your diet is not bad. Just try to keep it within 25-35g of added sugar per day, based on your calorie needs, which is roughly 100-150 calories worth of sugary-sweet foods. Enjoying treats in moderation will help get rid of cravings, without overdoing it and prevention feelings of deprivation.

Nick VanMeter