By Mohamed Shalaby, M.D.
The news about Americans and sugar is not so sweet. On average, the American diet contains about 22 teaspoons of sugar every day! The American Heart Association (AHA), recommends that no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance comes from added sugar. (These are calories available after meeting your nutrient needs). For women, that is about 6 teaspoons a day, and 9 teaspoons of sugar per day for men.
Sugar is linked to cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity in both children and adults. Excessive sugar intake is also linked to dangerous levels of cholesterol (LDL), increased plaque deposits in arteries, and has been linked to breast and colon cancers.
This sugar overload crisis – much of it stemming from hidden added ingredients – is harming our health in many ways.
Sneaky Sugary Ingredients
Humans are wired to enjoy the taste of sweets. So when a food is not considered sweet enough, the food industry often adds sugar to sell more of their product. Here are just a few of the many common foods hiding added sugars:
Drinks – Did you know that Americans are consuming almost 500% more soft drinks that were consumed in the 1940s? It is estimated that almost half of the sugar we consume today comes from the things we drink, such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and various kinds of fruit drinks. When in doubt, drink water!
Salad Dressings – The biggest sugar culprits are low-fat versions. Try using vinegar and oil with a squeeze of fresh lemon instead of store bought salad dressings.
Ketchup and Tomato Sauce – Sugar is often added to counter their acidity. Up to one-third of their content can be sugar!
Peanut Butter – One of the reasons you love it is because it’s loaded with sugar. Sugar content varies by brand, so compare labels.
Yogurt – This healthy snack contains added sugar for flavor. Opt for plain yogurt, then add fresh fruit or honey to sweeten naturally and add extra nutrients.
Breakfast Cereals – Have a look at the ingredient list of your favorite breakfast cereal and you will see that most of them are loaded with sugar.
Canned Soups and Vegetables – Almost anything in a can has added sugar to extend shelf life. And then there’s all that equally unhealthy sodium in canned foods. Best to choose fresh.
Healthy Granola Bars – Don’t be fooled by the name. Though these may contain healthy fiber, nuts and raisins, they also contain lots of different types of sugar. For a healthier snack, eat fruit or a handful of nuts.
Sugar and Heart Health
Fructose, the sweet molecule in sugar, is seven times more potent than the glucose portion of sugar, forming oxygen radicals, leading to higher rates of cell damage and death, and contributing to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In general, sugar speeds along your cell’s aging process.
Side Bar: Tip: Sugar is incredibly harmful, addicting, and it is everywhere! Learn the many names of sugar, so you can identify them while carefully reading food labels. Some include: high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose, brown rice syrup, honey and maple syrup. These may be listed multiple times on a label, indicating there is more sugar in that item than you think!