When people choose to improve their diets, they often tell me they're giving up sugar. While that can be a good idea, it's certainly not easy.
Sugar occurs naturally in a variety of healthy, whole foods such as milk, yogurt and fruit. However, it's the addedsugar that we all need to watch. This is trickier since it's often hiding in places you'd least expect, like spaghetti sauce, salad dressing and soup. Unfortunately, the food labels aren't much help, since the listed grams of sugar don't differentiate between what's naturally occurring or what's added.
The American Heart Association has recommended that women not exceed 100 calories of added sugar, and men 150 calories each day. This translates to no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men. For reference, a 12 oz can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of added sugar. So how do you know where that added sugar is hiding? Read the ingredient list.
Added sugar has many names. Other than sugars, honey or molasses, look for dextrose, fructose, sucrose, glucose, fruit juice concentrate or malt, cane and corn syrups. Once you start reading ingredient lists, you'll be surprised at how many products actually contain added sugar.
So what's the problem with too much added sugar? Other than providing energy (calories), sugar has no nutritional value. When you eat too much sugar, there's no room for the nutritious foods you need. And, if you eat too many calories, you'll gain weight. For some people, too much sugar can cause an increase in triglycerides, which can lead to heart disease. Of course, if you want to help your dentist buy a new car, then consuming a lot of sugar could definitely help.
To cut back on added sugar, avoid processed foods when you can. If you can't, read the labels and try to make choices with the least amount of "sugar aliases" as possible. Save your added sugar for those foods you enjoy most, and make those 6-9 teaspoons a day really count!