Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not a big fan of dessert,” and wondered what’s wrong with that person? Who doesn’t like a scoop of ice cream, a slice of pie, or a piece of cake?
Most people do. The problem is too many of us like to overindulge. Too much added sugar is a contributing factor to more than two-thirds of the people in the United States being overweight.
To make matters worse, sugar is in a lot of places we don’t expect. It’s in ketchup, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, oatmeal, snack foods, salad dressings, and canned soups.
Knowing what counts as sugar and opting for foods with low or no added sugars can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing some serious chronic health conditions.
What’s at risk
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, excessive consumption of added sugars can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other metabolic conditions.
High-sugar foods often have little nutritional value. In addition to the potential health risks already mentioned, consuming added sugar can lead to:
- Tooth decay
- Poor mental health
- Low energy
- Premature skin aging
Men should not consume more than 36 grams of added sugar a day or 150 calories. Women should limit their intake to 25 grams or 100 calories. Children should not consume more than 12 to 25 grams of sugar a day.
- A single serving of “healthy” breakfast cereal for adults contains 13 grams of sugar
- A breakfast bar made with “real fruit” and “whole grains” contains 15 grams of sugar
- A small serving of low-fat yogurt contains 22 grams of sugar
- A 12-ounce can of regular, non-diet soda contains about 39 grams of sugar
- A single serving of store-bought, bottled apple juice contains 42 grams of sugar
It’s all sugar
The University of California San Francisco created SugarScience to share information about sugar and its effects on health. One of its resources is a list of 61 different names for sugar that the food industry uses to sweeten products. Some are obvious with names that include the words, “sugar,” “syrup,” “sweetener,” and “cane.” But some aren’t so obvious:
- Agave nectar
- Barley malt
- Fruit juice
- Glucose solids
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Tips for cutting back
This may sound counterintuitive but cutting back on added sugar is a lot easier than you may think. It’s presence in nearly everything makes it relatively simple to eliminate a few items from your diet to help reduce your sugar intake.
- Off the table — Reduce the table sugar, syrup, and honey you add to tea, coffee, cereal, or pancakes. Cutting back by half is a way to wean yourself.
- So long soda — Water is always the best choice. Diet drinks can satisfy your sweet tooth but drink them in moderation.
- Fill up on fruit — Fruit has natural sugars and fiber. You can add berries, bananas, and dried fruit to sweeten your oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal. Frozen, dried, and canned fruits are good snacks. Just make sure canned fruits aren’t packed in heavy syrup.
- Cut back — Start reducing the amount of sugar called for in recipes next time you bake. You won’t miss it. Extracts like almond, vanilla, orange, and lemon can be good substitutes.
Cutting back on added sugar has lifelong benefits that include:
- Reduced diabetes risk
- Reduced belly fat
- More consistent energy
- Reduced weight
- Healthier-looking skin
- Healthier heart
Keep yourself healthy
Health care isn’t just for when you’re sick — it’s to keep you healthy, too. AltaMed offers members a wide range of programs that can make it easier to live healthy, manage chronic conditions, lose weight, and achieve other important health goals. We use proven techniques to motivate you.