Added Sugars — Not So Sweet

All types of sugarHave you heard the buzz about sugar lately? First, fat was the bad guy, then it was carbs and now its sugar! High intake of sugar can cause fat buildup in the liver which leads to problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. But is it really that bad? People have been eating sugar since Columbus brought it over in 1493. So why all of a sudden are we convinced that it is going to kill us? Well, the problem isn’t really the sugar itself … it’s that we eat way too much of it! The American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendation for added sugar intake is no more than 100 calories (six teaspoons or 25 grams) for women and 150 calories (nine teaspoons or 38 grams) for men per day. Unfortunately, the AHA estimates that the average person actually eats nearly 22 teaspoons of sugar per day (most of which is hidden in foods). One teaspoon of sugar contains approximately 16 calories. So, if we eat 22 teaspoons per day that would be the equivalent of about 350 calories per day from sugar alone. If you did that every day for one year, that would add up to 127,750 calories which is equal to 37 pounds!

On another note, not all sugar is created equal. Naturally occurring sugar – found in fruit, milk and some veggies – is perfectly healthy. It’s the added sugar (sweeteners put in during processing) that we seriously need to cut back on. That includes so-called “natural” sugars – like sugar in the raw, agave nectar, sucanant and honey. These sweeteners have the same affect on the body as white sugar, and are very similar in terms of calories as well. So how do you know if a product has added sugar? Read the label and focus on the ingredients list. If one of the first few ingredients is sugar or one of its aliases (high fructose corn syrup, fructose, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, sucralose and fruit juice concentrate) the product has added sugar.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that from now on you should never eat a cookie or drink a soda. We just need to be more aware of how much of the sweet stuff we put in our mouths because the effect that too much sugar has on our bodies isn’t all that sweet.

By Jocelyn Johnson, MS, RD, LN

Clinical Dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital

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