A diet high in sugars has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Learn how to identify added sugars and limit the amount you consume.
How much sugar is ok?
Consuming some sugar is OK. The problem is that the average American consumes about three times what is recommended. Daily intake of sugar should not exceed 6 teaspoons (25 g) for women and 9 teaspoons (38 g) for men.
Is too much sugar a problem?
In short, yes. A diet high in added sugars has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart and liver diseases, and even cancer and dementia. Eating too much sugar crowds out nutritious food and prevents you from meeting your nutritional needs. Limiting added sugars in the diet is important for overall health, so save those treats for special occasions.
What food has sugar?
Nearly all food has some sugar, but that's not necessarily a bad thing!
Sugar is found naturally in fruits, vegetables and grains. When food is eaten in its most natural form (e.g. eating an apple or oatmeal), the natural sugar is usually in small amounts and accompanied by fiber, vitamins, minerals and water.
Sugar is often added to food during processing. Any sugar added to food that isn't naturally found in it is referred to as "added sugar." An example, is fructose (the natural sugar in fruit) added to a granola bar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. The reason added sugar can be problematic is the amount used in products tends to be much higher than what is found naturally. Because it tastes so good, you may end up eating more causing you to eat way more sugar than you need.
If your food/beverages come in a bottle, package, container, box, bag, mix or kit, it most likely has added sugar. This includes soda, coffee drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, fast food, pizza, canned soup, mac and cheese, yogurt, granola, protein bars, meal replacements, dried fruit, whole grain breads, muffins, donuts, canned fruit, flavored milk, ice cream and frozen yogurt, smoothies and so much more!
How can I tell if a food has sugar in it?
Check the ingredients list for any of these sugar aliases:
Sugar - brown sugar, corn sugar, cane sugar, cane juice, evaporated cane juice, cane juice crystals, beet sugar, buttered sugar, caster sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, demerara sugar, golden sugar, invert sugar, muscovado sugar, organic raw sugar, confectioner's sugar, brown rice sugar, turbinado sugar, yellow sugar
Syrup - brown rice syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, carob syrup, golden syrup, oat syrup, rice bran syrup, tapioca syrup, agave nectar/syrup, maple syrup; Honey, molasses, blackstrap molasses
Malt - barley malt, barley malt syrup, diastatic malt; panela, panocha, treacle, caramel, dextran, diastase, ethyl maltol maltodextrin, sorghum/sorghum syrup; fructose, crystalline fructose, fruit juice concentrates, maltose, lactose, glucose, sucrose
How can I cut back on sugar?
- Drink plain water. Use water as your primary beverage and save sugary treats for special occasions. Avoid drinking your sugar.
- Eat less premade food. Whenever someone else prepares your food, sugar will be added. Cook at home more.
- Indulge less frequently. Fancy beverages, fast food and desserts are where sugar is plentiful. But sugar can add up simply by adding it to everything you eat through the day (coffee, toast, tea, bread, snacks, etc.) Treat yourself occasionally rather than daily and observe eating habits at each meal.
- Eat smaller portions. Less overall food means less overall sugar. Choose small amounts of indulgent food.
- Snack on vegetables. If you are hungry between meals, reach for fresh vegetables and fruit instead of packaged snacks and cookies. Veggies are usually lacking in most people's diets, so fill up!
- Use fruit to sweeten. Buy plain yogurt and add frozen fruit or banana. Add fruit to plain oatmeal or cereal.
Do juice cleanses really work?
How to get more vitamin C
Fresh ideas for fruit
Fruit and yogurt parfaits