Sugar. It’s what we imagine when we think of desserts, donuts, cookies, or kid’s candy items. Let’s face it, the sweet stuff is everywhere. We can’t walk into a gas station, grocery store, or even watch TV without being bombarded by the topic. In this two part sugar series, I’ll help you become a sugar sleuth and decode the health effects, surprising sources, how to lower your intake, and determine if sugar substitutes are a sweeter choice. You might be shocked when I uncover the sweet truth.
Added sugars, sugars not naturally occurring in a product (think everything except fruit and dairy) can have detrimental effects on our health when over consumed. An overconsumption of added sugars may increase a person’s risk for HEART DISEASE, TYPE 2 DIABETES, METABOLIC SYNDROME, and certain forms of CANCER. Not to mention, in kids it can cause hyperactivity which can be challenging for them to focus in school. …Oh, and did I mention it also, weakens skin cells (collagen), leading to WRINKLES?! WOAH!
If you’re reading this thinking, “I don’t consume candy, cookies, or cake therefore I’m not at risk.” Not so fast. Unless you are a ‘clean’ eater and avoid all processed foods, there’s a chance you are consuming close to, if not over, what the average American consumes. That’s because 75% of added sugars are from processed food items, while the top percentage is from sugar laden drinks. As Americans we eat over 77 pounds of sugar individually, each year! That’s 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. (See above, as I mentioned dairy and fruit are not included in this category because they contain naturally occurring sugar molecules.) Here are some of the top sources of sugary products.
- Flavored yogurt. Yes, dairy has sugar. That doesn’t count. It’s when you begin consuming yogurts containing fruit on the bottom, unique flavors other than plain, crunchy toppings to add, some even have candy pieces you mix in!
- Coffee drinks. An afternoon pick-me-up was just followed by an afternoon sugar crash. Coffee on it’s own is a drink choice with a mere 5 calories, and actually may lower blood sugar levels. After adding flavored creamers, or ordering a Mocha Chocolate Carmel Java Chip, the sugar allotment for the next several days was just achieved.
- Sports beverages and aids. We all know what I’m referring to. Companies originally began making sports beverages with the intention to fuel elite athletes during strenuous activity. Calories and sugar is comparable to drinking a large soda.
- Pasta sauce. Yup, a vegetable based topping just took a turn. Homemade versions may contain less sugar, compared to those purchased in the jar. Tomatoes are acidic, and to help cut the acidity some sugar needs to be added. However, as Americans we like things on the sweet side, so companies pour large quantities of sugar into pasta sauces to tickle our taste buds.
- BBQ sauce and Ketchup. Similar to the pasta sauce, companies know how to reel consumers in. There are a few varieties with low sugar content you can find.
- Granola bars. Not to slam the granola bar industry, because I have a handful of brands I trust and stand by. However, depending on the brand, you may be better off eating a candy bar because it could contain less sugar.
The recommendations state no more than 10% of calories from added sugar per day. I recommend less than 25g of added sugar per day. Actually count how many grams you are consuming from various products. Treats are meant to be treats, everything in moderation. One piece of cake at your birthday party isn’t going to cause heart disease or diabetes. Consistently consuming 22 teaspoons each day from surprising sources just might. Stay tuned next week as I unveil tips for cutting back on sugar, alternatives, and decoding whether we should reach for sugar substitutes.