Sugar has become a problem in the American diet in recent years. The average American consumes well over 20 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis, which adds up to an average of 142 pounds of sugar per person, per year! That’s more than two times what the USDA recommends. In fact, sugar is found in everything from pastries and sodas to sports drinks and frozen foods.
Simply stated, when sugar is ingested into our body, it is converted to energy for the short-term. Any sugar (energy) that is not used by the body is stored as fat. In addition to weight gain, an overabundance of sugar can lead to mood swings, foggy thinking, acne, tooth decay and more. Recommended daily sugar intake is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men (one teaspoon is equivalent to a sugar packet). The calories that added sugars contribute to your diet can pack on pounds without you even realizing it, leading to obesity and a myriad of other difficulties.
There are over 140 names for sugar including: brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), turbinado sugar and more.
Natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey, maple syrup and molasses are less processed than refined white sugar, have beneficial trace vitamins and minerals, and create fewer fluctuations in blood sugar levels but should only be used in moderation.
Artificial sweeteners (also called sugar substitutes) are manmade substances that are used instead of table sugar to sweeten foods and beverages. Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and remain a controversial topic because some sweeteners cause severe side effects and have even been linked to cancer. Ongoing clinical trials continue. You may recognize these artificial sweeteners under the brand names of NutraSweet®, Equal®, Sweet’N Low®, and Splenda®.
Take action this week by reading labels and noticing the amount of added sugar and artificial sweeteners you are consuming each day. To see if a product contains added sugar, look in the ingredients list on the package for words such as “syrup,” “cane,” “sweetener” and “sugar,” as well as anything ending in “-ose.” Look for food products with the fewest grams of sugar listed under “carbohydrates.” Boost your natural sugar intake by buying fresh or dried fruits, or opting for frozen and canned varieties with no syrup. Use spices such as cinnamon and ginger and extracts such as almond and vanilla to give dishes natural sweetness. The American Heart Association reports that you can cut the refined sugar in recipes by one-third to one-half without tasting the difference. Being aware of your sugar intake and reading food labels is key to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Sara Wolfsen is a Certified Health Coach who provides private health coaching, nutrition education, and gentle weight-loss guidance and support. Schedule your complimentary coaching session and learn more online at www.sarawolfsen.com