Sugar Smarts

You heard it growing up, “Too much sugar will rot your teeth!” Besides being a threat to teeth, sugar wreaks havoc throughout the body and it is all too easy to consume sugar in excess on a daily basis.

According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adults should consume less than 50 grams (12 teaspoons) of added sugar daily. The American Heart Association recommends that men limit added sugar consumption to 36 grams daily, and for women the number is even lower at 25 grams. Most Americans far exceed these limits every single day.

The term ‘added sugar’ refers to sugar not naturally occurring in food. Here is what to look for on a nutrition label: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose. 

Many of the foods that contain added sugars are also high-calorie and provide little to no nutritional value, they are sadly lacking in the nutrients our bodies need. A diet made up of these foods leads to health problems such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Avoiding all sugar is not the goal: The natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products provide needed nutrition. Drinking and eating things loaded with added sugar should be avoided. They contain such high levels of sugar that we end up consuming massive amounts of sugar each day, often without even realizing it. For this reason avoiding fruit juices is also recommended since juices contain such concentrated amounts of sugar, though natural, per serving. 

Shop smart by seeking out everyday items free from added sugar, or at least with less added sugar. Focus on meals centered around vegetables, fruits, and fish and meats (or protein alternatives.)  Leave out the packaged processed foods. Everyone knows sodas, candy, ice cream and pastries are a nightmare of sugar, but you will find added sugar in ketchup, pasta sauce, yogurt, breads, energy drinks, and crackers as well.

A single serving of yogurt can have 22 grams of sugar, and you might find around 8 grams of sugar in canned soup or serving of marinara sauce. These amounts add up fast, and that is without any candy or soda or other obvious sources of sugar.

The key is giving the body what it needs—water and a variety of unprocessed natural foods—but a typical modern diet contains processed foods chock full of sugar. We typically do not overeat fruit, but can easily consume far too much added sugar. We miss out on beneficial fiber, vitamins & minerals when added-sugar processed foods dominate our diets.