As sugar consumption in America reaches all-time records, so do lifestyle-related diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The danger of hidden sugar in your diet is serious, and consuming too much sugar has proven to have severe health consequences.
It quietly hides in your diet, masked by many names. To take control of your health and make smart choices, you must learn to read labels and understand all of the hidden names for sugar. Read on to become sugar aware.
Sweetly Innocent or Deadly Dangerous?
Sugar is sweet and tasty, but unfortunately it's addictive. Food manufacturers know this. Because if a product is sweetened, it will sell more. Beyond enhancing flavor, sugar is used to extend shelf life and texture, and the unaware public consumes more without realizing it. Start reading labels and you’ll be shocked.
Sugar hides everywhere, often in foods that don't even make sense. Checked your store bought pasta sauce lately? How about that ketchup or peanut butter? And how much sugar in Coke? Almost 10 teaspoons in just 16 ounces. Think of 10 little sugar cubes. Just 4 grams of sugar on a label equals 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Added Versus Naturally Occurring Sugar
The concern is added sugar, not naturally occurring sugar. It's the sugar in sports drinks and fancy coffees, cookies, juices, cakes, soda, pastries, energy bars, processed meats, canned fruit, breakfast cereal, ice cream, and more.
What about added sugar vs natural sugar. Naturally occurring sugars (whole fruits and vegetables) come packaged with fiber, and fiber slows down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. That makes is more healthy. Naturally occurring sugar in fresh whole fruit and vegetables is generally low and contains beneficial fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
The Danger in Your Diet
The sugar manufacturers industry tells you that sugar plays an important role in a nutritious and balanced diet. But it's not true: they lie. We do not need added sugar.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), consumption of added sugars has been implicated in increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as well as cognitive decline and even some cancers. According to Dr. Daniel Amen, sugar is pro-inflammatory. He says your brain on sugar does not work as well.
Read Labels to Understand
You've got to read labels like a hawk. First look at the nutrition label for grams of sugar in a serving, then read the ingredient list for the names. Sugar hides under dozens of names but here is a short list of the common types of sugars:
- Corn syrup and corn syrup solids
- Brown sugar
- Raw sugar
- Beet sugar
- Brown rice syrup
- Evaporated cane sugar
- Fruit juice concentrate
- The "ose's"- Dextrose, Sucrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose
- Malt sugar
- Maple syrup
- Icing sugar
- HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)
From the author who really blew the lid off of sugar, here is his list of 56 names (book) that sugar hides under. And this list doesn't include sugar alcohols, the hybrid sugars. They end in "ol", like manitiol, xylitol, erythritol, and others.
What's the Sugar Limit?
When it comes to added sugar per day, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories of added sugar (that’s 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) per day for women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons or 36 grams) per day for men. Teens and children should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day. The thing is, it adds up fast. Remember that 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon.
Can I Eat Sugar?
A little sugar now and then won't kill you, but you've got to be aware of what you consume. I love a little maple syrup in my oatmeal with berries as well as a little coconut sugar in my coffee. Other than that, I have little added sugar in my diet.
The biggest sources of added sugar is processed and packaged foods, junk food, snack food, fast food, and bottled drinks. That's the bigger part of the sugar battle, and you can fix it.