Did you know that you may be eating the equivalent of 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day?

The American Heart Association estimates that Americans consume over 110 pounds, or the equivalent of 22 5-pound bags, of added sugar every year.

The AHA limits women to 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, while men should stop at 9. If you have certain health conditions, the limit is likely less.

Science has proven that the consumption of too much sugar can wreak havoc on our bodies. Both the AHA and Centers for Disease Control advise that the added sugars in sodas, baked goods, and processed foods are likely responsible for the rise of obesity in adults and children.

Furthermore, the ingestion of excess sugars is linked to many diseases, including cancer, food addiction, insulin resistance, dental cavities, fatty liver, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Whether natural or processed, all sugar is a type of simple carbohydrate that our body uses for energy. Naturally occurring sugars in foods such as milk, vegetables, and fruits are not the problem because they contain other nutrients and are often high in fiber. Processed and prepared foods hide the worrisome sugars.

Added sugars are found everywhere in the American diet, often lurking in foods we might think are healthy. About 80% of the 600,000 consumer-packaged foods sold in the United States contain added sugar.

Sugar hides in every aisle of the grocery store. Products known to contain hidden sugars include breakfast cereals, granola, yogurt, breads, soups, salad dressings, and pasta sauces.

The AHA states that sugar-sweetened beverages are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet. Regular sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks contain high levels of added sugars. Just one can of regular soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Scientific studies report that drinking high levels of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages is associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease. Sugary soda, fruit juices, coffees, and teas are significantly linked to poor health outcomes.

Sugar: the sneakiest ingredient of them all. How do you know if a product contains added sugars?

To identify hidden sugar traps in our food, read the nutritional label, but also check the ingredients. Sugar is often disguised; there are 57 different names for it. Any ingredients ending in “ose” — such as dextrose, fructose, maltose, and sucrose — are sugars.

Additionally, the word “syrup” listed on the label is a sign of added sugars. Rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup (the unhealthiest of all the sugars), malt syrup, oat syrup, and corn syrup are sugars.

Also, anything with “sugar” in the name — such as brown, cane, confectioners, and raw — is sugar. Other examples of added sugar include fruit nectars, juices, honey, agave, and molasses.

Excessive added sugar has many adverse health effects. Although consuming small amounts is perfectly healthy, we should try to minimize our sugar intake.

The best way to do so is to prepare our own healthy meals at home and avoid buying foods and drinks high in added sugar. Read the nutritional label and list of ingredients to find those “shameful sugars.”


10 Tips to Reduce Added Sugars

1. Read nutritional labels and ingredients lists, and choose products with the lowest amount of added sugars.

2. Drink water, calorie-free drinks, or low-fat milk.

3. Drink coffee black or use Stevia for a zero-calorie, natural sweetener.

4. Choose breakfast cereals with less sugar.

5. Select reduced-sugar varieties of syrups, jams, jellies, and preserves.

6. Use olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing and choose marinades, nut butters, ketchup, and marinara sauce with no added sugars.

7. Choose nutrient-rich snacks such as vegetables, fruits, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers, and low-fat, low-calorie yogurt.

8. A homemade trail mix of fruit, nuts, and a few dark chocolate chips makes a tasty snack.

9. Use extracts like almond, vanilla, orange, or lemon in recipes.

10. Instead of sugar, enhance foods with spices such as basil, thyme, rosemary, ginger, cinnamon, or nutmeg.

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