Milk, milk products and fruits are natural and nutritious sources of sugar. Unfortunately, added sugars are the most common source of sugar in the standard American diet. They are used to add sweetness, preserve food and alter foods’ texture and appearance. While foods with natural sugars such as fruit promote health and wellness, too much of this added simple carbohydrate can be detrimental to your health.
Sugar intake has several negative effects on the body including promoting overweight/obesity, tooth decay and can increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Excess added sugars can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of becoming overweight and obese by adding “empty” calories to foods, meaning they provide calories with no nutritional value. In addition, they metabolize quickly, leaving you hungry shortly after eating. The average American currently consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Just one 12 ounce can of regular soda contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar!
Sugar can cause tooth decay whether it is naturally found in foods or added. When bacteria in the mouth come into contact with starches and sugars, an acid forms and erodes teeth, causing cavities. Soft drinks are especially damaging because they already contain acids that erode teeth.
Added sugars include ingredients added to foods during processing, preparation, or at the table.
Here are the most recent recommendations for added sugar from The American Heart Association.
Women: no more than 100 calories a day (25 grams), about 6 teaspoons per day.
Men: no more than 150 calories a day (37 grams), about 9 teaspoons, per day.
Having the ability to identify added sugars on ingredients lists makes it easier to avoid foods with added sugars.
Here is a list of common names of added sugars that you may find on ingredient labels:
confectioner’s powdered sugar
corn syrup solids
high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
nectars (i.e., peach nectar, pear nectar, agave nectar)
white granulated sugar
Other names for added sugars that you might see are evaporated corn sweetener, crystal dextrose, cane juice, liquid fructose, glucose, fruit nectar, and fruit juice concentrate.
Here are some simple ways to cut back on added sugar:
– Replacing sugar in recipes with extract such as almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
– Eliminating sugary beverages and drink water.
– Buying cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving and sweeten with cut up bananas, berries, dried fruit, cinnamon or nutmeg.
– Opting for jams, jellies, syrups and beverages with reduced or no sugar added.
By eliminating added sugar, you can cut back on calories without sacrificing foods with nutritional value. Not only will you notice an improvement in your health, but you will begin to realize that the less sweets you eat, the less sweets you crave!