Today — under the new American Dietary Guidelines (which are reviewed and revised if necessary every five years) — we are advised to consume less than 10 percent of our daily calories from added sugars.
That means no more than 200 calories, which is the equivalent of 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar. Do you know how much sugar is in your favorite foods? Americans eat a lot of sugar — a lot of sugar—on average, about 130 pounds, a year.
Added sugars — as opposed to those naturally occurring in fruits and milk — are introduced to foods during processing or at the table.
While many of us are aware that they are abundant in sweet items such as cookies or cake, we may be surprised that added sugar is aplenty inconspicuous items such as bread, pasta sauce, or salad dressings.
This big shift that these guidelines have taken is based upon a growing body of evidence that increased sugar consumption is linked to weight gain (and a myriad of chronic illnesses associated with obesity) as well as heart disease and cancer. Added to this is the problem that sugar is addicting. When we consume it, sugar can hack into an area of our brain that releases “feel good” hormones. These hormones were designed to help us survive and provide a reward mechanism, similar to when we see someone we love. They are also the same hormones that are released when people utilize addictive
substances such as alcohol or nicotine. Let’s look at some strategies to help us meet these new recommendations.
Watch Out For Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing Sugar comes in many forms and names, including glucose, sucrose, brown
rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and dextrose. Additionally, foods that do not taste sweet can be loaded with sugar; for example, ketchup, pasta sauce, bread, pasta, and rice. To avoid them, read the ingredients on nutrition labels.
Read and Understand Nutrition labels The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now requiring food manufacturers to declare the percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars. The %DV indicates how much a nutrient in a serving of food
contributes to a daily diet. Just as it does for sodium and fat, this value helps consumers to quickly assess the added sugar of a particular item and hopefully help them to limit their consumption.
Soda, energy, and sports drinks Research has shown that these are the largest food group sources of added sugar. Many will be surprised that a single, 12-ounce can of regular soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons of added sugar! And,
too, many “healthy” drinks may be jam-packed with several teaspoons of added sugar. Whereas tap water contains no added sugars, “enhanced” water bottles can contain 8 teaspoons; bottled iced teas 9 teaspoons; energy drinks 7 teaspoons; and bottled coffee drinks 8 teaspoons.
Also, the excessive amount of sugar that is present in alcoholic drinks is often overlooked.
Fruit and Fiber
Our intense sweet cravings can often be satisfied with fruit. Although fruit contains simple sugars, it also contains vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber which can delay the absorption of sugar from our intestines. This decreases sugar highs which prompt insulin release and the consequent sugar lows. Additionally, fiber makes our tummies feel full and can decrease the number of calories we consume.
So the next time we want to reach for a pastry, instead, indulge with a banana, apple, mango, pear, or pineapple… the list goes on.
Consider blending fruit with nonfat yogurt for a fun and healthy treat. And for the kids, or kids at heart, make popsicles!
Avoid artificial sweeteners
These chemically processed items are up to 600 times sweeter than sugar. As a result, it distorts our sweet expectations. For example, after having one cookie, we may have another and another to gratify our supercharged craving.
Additionally, when we consume sweet items—either artificial sweeteners or actual sugar — our body expects calories and nutrition. However, artificial sugars fail to provide either of these. Many experts believe that this is the reason that sweeteners lead to weight gain—our body continues to crave certain food items and we continue to consume them to meet these needs.
Inject bursts of flavor into our food
By providing our taste buds with flavorful spices, herbs, and such, we may be able to decrease our sugar consumption. Cinnamon, coriander, vinegar, cloves, cocoa powder, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla bean or extract, or citrus zest are not just flavorful, but they are also filled with antioxidants, nutrients, and vitamins.
Eating breakfast suppresses the release of hunger hormones that would stimulate our appetite and also provides a feeling of fullness or “satiety.” What this translates to is having more willpower when faced with high calorie, high fat, or sugary options that can wreak havoc on our waistlines.
Sometimes what we perceive as a sugar craving may really just be thirst. So the next time we crave for that sugar fix, let’s consider reaching for a glass—or two—of water first. We may not even want the sugary item after.
Excessive sugar in the diet is not the best idea when it comes to healthy living. Sugar can damage your heart and cause added belly fat (weight gain). And recent research indicates that sugar is a silent killer, like salt, and may be linked to cancer production and impact cancer survival. Few of us are consuming sugar in recommended moderate amounts and most of us are eating tons of it. In fact, worldwide we are consuming about 500 extra calories a day from sugar. That’s just
about what you would need to consume if you wanted to gain a pound a week. Most people know that sugar is not good for them, but for some reason, they think the risk of excess sugar consumption is less than that of having too much saturated and trans fat, sodium or calories.
A healthy diet can include that occasional slice of cake or whatever your sweet treat of choice is… just not every day. And if you are in the active phase of getting leaner, it is suggested you become stricter with cutting the added sugars back. Overall, we will benefit from knowing how much sugar we are choosing to consume — knowledge is power — and that understanding can directly impact our choices. It is true — the choices we make today becone the life we lead tomorrow.
Let’s be mindful and take action to cut our sugar intake. You will be healthier as a result!
This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional. Dr. Nina has used all reasonable care in compiling the current information but it may not apply to you and your symptoms. Always consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.