Sugar | The unsavory facts about added sugars in your diet |

Sugar | The unsavory facts about added sugars in your diet

Jill Whisler, MS
Special to the Sun
LIFE IS SWEET: Donand#8217;t cut it short with too much sugar.
Getty Images |

The American Heart Associationand#8217;s new recommendations on added sugars in our diet are the strictest of any major health organizationsand#8217; guidelines. Added sugars, by the way, are sweeteners used primarily in processed packaged foods and beverages and#8212; think sodas, cereals, pastries and desserts. Added sugars are not the same as natural sugars, which are naturally present in fruit, dairy products and vegetables.

The AHA recommends added sugar intake be limited to 100 calories (25 grams, or six teaspoons) per day for women, and to 150 calories (about 37 grams, or nine teaspoons) per day for men.

Why the change?

Most of us now eat about 355 calories (88 grams, or 22 teaspoons) of added sugars each day, which is almost a 20 percent increase during the past three decades. Perhaps given the liquid sugar energy drink rage, the highest consumption of sugar reported is 34.3 teaspoons among boys 14 to 18 years of age. When you consider a 12-ounce can of soda or one cup of frozen yogurt packs in eight teaspoons of sugar, thatand#8217;s more than 130 calories in added sugar that wouldnand#8217;t meet the new guidelines. Think and#8230; do you really want eight teaspoons of sugar with that sandwich at lunch?

The sour truth to all this sweet stuff, according to an AHA report published in the journal Circulation, is several studies have linked high amounts of sugar intake to insulin resistance, hypertension, high triglycerides, and Type 2 diabetes. While most food manufacturers would argue otherwise, the bottom line is sweets may taste great, but they donand#8217;t add positive nutrients to our diet. In a nation of overfed and undernourished individuals, sugary foods need to be limited.

Is it addictive?

Is sugar added to get you to come back and buy more? Are you addicted to chocolate or chocolate chip mint ice cream? The four most addictive foods are chocolate, dairy products, meat and sugar.

Most people donand#8217;t realize sugar is one of the most highly addictive foods. Dopamine is released in the brain when sugar is put on the tongue. You become addicted to the release of dopamine in the brain and begin to crave sweets. If you are addicted to sweet tastes, when you see sugary foods (like sweetened cereals) dopamine in your brain is released. Often you buy sweet products or foods while youand#8217;re on a dopamine-heavy automatic pilot.

How much are you getting?

Unfortunately, food labels donand#8217;t let you know how many teaspoons of sugar youand#8217;re eating. First, they measure everything in grams. Secondly, they donand#8217;t tell you how many sugar grams are added to the product versus how many are naturally occurring. For example, lactose in dairy products and fructose in products containing fruit. That problem wonand#8217;t be solved until the government changes food labeling laws to require specific disclosure of added sugars.

If you assume itand#8217;s all added sugar (not a bad assumption for a lot of processed foods), each four grams of sugar on the label is one teaspoon: four grams = one teaspoon = 16 calories.

So your maximum six to nine teaspoons will be 24 to 36 grams on a food label. A 16 oz. bottle of a popular instant tea drink has 42 grams of sugar. There goes your limit and then some.

Tricks to limit added sugars

If you have a sweet tooth, enjoy these tricks to limit added sugars and make sure you donand#8217;t blow the overall daily calorie budget.

Eat natural, whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. This is especially true for snacks, as between-meal noshes are often sugar-laden.

Since added and natural sugars arenand#8217;t distinguished from one another on nutritional labeling, itand#8217;s not possible to calculate exactly how much youand#8217;re getting each day. But as a general rule of thumb, the more processed a food is, the higher percentage of its sugars are added and#8212; especially if itand#8217;s not a fruit or dairy product, which may contain a mix of both.

For a better idea of the added sugar content, look at the ingredient list on packaged foods. If any of these are among the first three ingredients, the food is sugar-rich: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, sugar (dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, syrup. Look for bread and cereal where sugar is not in the top three ingredient list.

Choose foods labeled low-sugar, sugar-free or sugar-reduced. Watch for more added sweeteners or artificial sweeteners used in place of sugar.

and#8212; Jill Whisler, MS, Registered Dietitian at the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance

Major sources of added sugar in Americansand#8217; diets

Regular soft drinks: 33 percent contribution to total added sugar intake

Straight sugar and candy: 16 percent

Cakes, cookies, pies: 13 percent

Fruit drinks and and#8220;-adesand#8221; (not 100 percent fruit juice): 10 percent

Dairy (watch out for sweetened yogurt and ice cream): 8.5 percent

Grain-based foods (watch out for cinnamon toast and sweetened cereals): 6 percent

If you are interested in more information on nutritional consultation or weight loss programs contact the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance at (530) 587-3769.

American Heart Association Recommends Daily Limit on Added Sugar,,20221146,00.html

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