Improve Cholesterol and Weight by Cutting Back on this One Thing

March 17, 2016

Sugar is everywhere, and here are the foods in your home it is hiding most often.

Sugar is everywhere and Americans of all ages are getting more sugar than they’ve bargained for. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans eat about 22 teaspoons (110 grams) of added sugars a day. That’s 3.6 times the recommendation (or limit) for women and 2.4 times that for men. 

In kids, the majority of sugar consumption occurs at home. Slightly more than half of the added sugar from beverages (54%), and nearly two-thirds (66%) of the added sugars from foods is reportedly consumed at home. And you can bet it’s a similar story for adults. 

So where is the sugar hiding?

There are many foods with “hidden sugars” so read labels and ingredient lists carefully and look out for ingredients with names like glucose syrup, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, sucrose, malt syrup, fruit juice concentrate, cane juice, and maltose to name a few. There are also some foods that you wouldn’t think contain sugar like, oatmeal, granola, protein bars, iced tea, tomato sauce, sports drinks, prepared meals and more. It’s important to be vigilant about reading labels as you never know where sugar might pop up.

Sugar can be both naturally occurring and added, so read labels for the above terms as well as understanding what foods naturally contain sugar; dried cranberries are a great example as they usually have added sweeteners, so read the ingredient lists to know what you are actually eating. 

Although most health authorities fail to specify recommendations, some experts recommend women consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day, and men no more than nine. (For reference one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight or more teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories.). Sugar is implied in heart disease, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, hypertension, diabetes, decreased immunity, general inflammation, and more.

Here are some suggestions on how to decrease your sugar intake:

Cut back on the amount of added sugars you consume. This includes, coffee, tea, and breakfast items that you may add syrup or a teaspoon of sugar (that might already be sweetened!) To start, try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean from there. Another great tip is to remove sugar, and sweeteners from the table and possibly even you cupboard! Try adding nutrient dense fruits like berries and bananas to sweeten naturally. If you buy your coffee or tea out of the house, make sure to ask about the sugar content of that vanilla flavor or other flavors you add to your drink.

Make your meals more interesting with nutrient dense, antioxidant rich spices. Instead of sugar, try ginger, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Buy fresh fruits or if you're purchasing canned fruits make sure they are in water or natural juice; avoid those canned in syrup. Also do be careful of dried fruit, it’s easy to eat a few pieces, more than you would if it was fresh, doubling or tripling the sugar content.

When baking treats, substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in equal amounts, or try cutting back on the sugar called for in recipes by one-third - you probably won’t even notice a difference.

Enjoying sweets doesn’t always mean relying on added sugars. Once you have weaned yourself off some of the sugar in your diet you will start to truly enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits and even some vegetables!