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The Dangerous Health Consequences of America's Sugar High

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The Dangerous Health Consequences of America's Sugar High

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories a day from added sugars (the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar) and men consume no more than 150 calories a day (or 9 teaspoons). The World Health Organization recommends consuming less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars. Let’s put this into perspective with numbers.

  • 12-ounce can of regular soda: 39 grams of sugar (9.75 teaspoons)
  • 8 ounces of fruit juice: 30 grams of sugar (7.5 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce: 11 grams of sugar (2.75 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce: 12 grams of sugar (3 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons of jam: 19 grams of sugar (4.75 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons of ketchup: 7 grams of sugar (1.75 teaspoons)
  • 6 ounces 99% fat free yogurt: 27 grams of sugar (6.75 teaspoons)
  • 1 envelope of flavored instant oatmeal: 14 grams of sugar (3.5 teaspoons)

Why is America so high on sugar and what are the recommendations? Americans are still consuming almost 1/2 cup of added sugar a day, much more than the recommended daily limit. The major contributors are regular soft drinks, sugars, candy, desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and milk products with added sugar and other grains with sugar added. Too much sugar is not so sweet on your health. Added sugars lack valuable nutrients while adding calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity.

 There are research studies that tie high intake of added sugars to many poor health conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and risk for heart disease and stroke.

If you consider your daily calorie needs as a budget, ideally try to “spend” most of your calories on essentials to meet your nutrient needs and use only the leftover amount for the “extras” such as sugar. Sugar can be hidden under different names like high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrates, and in words containing “ose” like “maltose” or “sucrose.”

Try to be a label detective. Labels will report the grams of sugar. There are four calories in each gram of sugar, so a food containing 15 grams of sugar per serving has 60 calories from sugar alone. Finally, keep in mind that not all sugars are added; some sugars are naturally found in healthy foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).

How to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet

Focus on fruit. Fruit has naturally occurring sugar, but it’s also packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. “A serving” is 1/2 cup mixed fruit, 1 small piece of fruit, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit or 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice. Select fresh and frozen fruit instead of juice as better sources of fiber. Another reason to avoid fruit juice is that it may be associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Smarter snacking and cereals selections. To satisfy your sweet tooth, look for yogurts with less than 20 grams of sugar, granola bars with less than 10 grams of sugar, or just stick with fruit as a naturally sweet snack. Select cereals with no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.

Rethink your drink. Replace sugar-loaded beverages with water, unsweetened drinks and low-fat or non-fat milk. To add flare to water, flavor or infuse it with citrus fruits, try seltzer water (plain or flavored) or unsweetened decaf tea.

Read labels. Check the grams of sugar and calculate how many teaspoons you are getting from a single serving. Also beware of alternative names for sugar on the ingredient list.

On a final note, the new food labels are going to distinguish between the amount of "added sugars" and natural sugars (in fruit and milk), so not to confuse what is healthy and what is not. The revised labels will hopefully drive better food and drink choices so Americans can come down from their sugar “high.”

To learn about services provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition, click here or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Colleen Loveland, MS, RDN, LD, CDE