Experts say that we are consuming far too much sugar in our typical daily diet and that this may be the underlying culprit causing our epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
But you need to become a super sleuth to detect the hidden sugar in some of your favorite foods.
Dr. Joe Colella, a leading bariatric expert and surgeon and author of “The Appetite Solution,” points out that it’s not easy to steer clear of the sweet stuff, especially if you eat commercially prepared foods. But knowing what to watch for can help.
“We are consuming far too many simple sugars. They’re in just about everything we eat, from processed foods to condiments like ketchup,” he tells Newsmax Health.
“Simple sugars not only add pounds but they trigger food cravings so you land up eating more of them. Simple sugars are saboteurs because they are so easy to digest.”
Nutritionists say that the hidden numbers add up.
“The average American eats 350 calories of added sugar per day which is the equivalent to 22 teaspoons or 88 grams,” Tara Gidus Collingwood, co-author of the “Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies,” tells Newsmax Health.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons/24 grams) for women and 150 calories (9 teaspoons/36 grams) of added sugar for men.
“However the confusion lies between the difference in natural sugar coming from milk and fruit and added sugar,” says Collingwood. “The nutritional information on food labels does not distinguish between the two. For example, a cup of fruited yogurt may have 27 grams of sugar, but you don’t have a way of knowing which is natural versus added sugar.”
Collingwood points out that there is no benefit to added sugar, but getting natural sugar from its food source does have advantages.
“When you drink milk you get the added health benefits of calcium, riboflavin, potassium, protein, and vitamin B12,” she explains. “When you eat whole fruit, you get potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, folate, and other nutrients such as fiber and carbohydrates.”
And the plot thickens because in trying to identify added sugar in our foods, we need to know its many names, says the Orlando-based nutritionist. Try to avoid a product that has any of these added sugars as the first or second ingredient:
- Cane sugar
- Corn syrup
- Cane juice
- Brown sugar
- Brown rice syrup
- Agave nectar
Colella notes that sugar can be addictive, but switching to whole foods and natural sources can prevent the “sugar high” that creates a vicious circle.
“Simple sugars don’t have to travel through the intestines to deliver glucose to your body,” he explains. “They go right into the bloodstream and for the first few moments, you feel great! You’ve received an IV shot of sugar! But then you crash and eat more sugar to get that high again.”
While you may think of the obvious culprits of added sugar in foods such as cookies, cakes, candy, sodas and ice cream, you may overlook some unusual but very common suspects out there.
Here are some examples:
Pasta sauces: They taste savory, not sweet, but many pasta sauces have between 6 and 12 grams of sugar per half-cup serving. “Make your own sauce with freshly chopped tomatoes, herbs and olive oil,” advises Colella.
Yogurt: It is full of healthy calcium and protein, but even low-fat flavored yogurt can have 17 to 33 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving. It’s better to buy plain Greek yogurt and add your own chopped fruit.
Instant oatmeal: Oatmeal has a good reputation for being full of healthy fiber, but many fruit-flavored instant ones have between 10 and 15 grams of sugar per packet. Again, stick to plain oatmeal and add apple slices or berries.
Salad dressings: Sweet dressings can be packed with sugar, up to 7 grams in a two tablespoon serving. Make your own dressing with olive oil, herbs, vinegar or lemon juice.
Energy drinks: Most sports and energy drinks that say they’ll give you a lift have tons of sugar, along with caffeine. Some energy drinks have about 25 grams per 8-ounce serving. Drink water or low-calorie Gatorade to stay hydrated.
Coleslaw: If you think that’s the healthy side dish, think again. One regular-size side of coleslaw from many popular fast-food places will cost you about 15 grams in sugar. Make it at home.
Tea: Many popular teas have a surprising amount of sugar. The leading brands of lemon-flavored iced tea, for example, all have about 32 grams of sugar per bottle! Drink unsweetened tea and use Splenda if you want a sweeter beverage.
Juice and smoothies: They are quite the trend these days, but are chock full of sugar. A cup of orange juice can have up to 22 grams of the sweet stuff! Instead eat fresh fruit which has the fiber to slow down sugar delivery to the body. Muscle Milk protein shakes, says Colella, are perfectly proportioned with the right amount of protein and sugar.
Ketchup: At about 4 grams per tablespoon, ketchup on your burger can give you a minor sugar boost. That's not as much as some other foods on this list, but if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, switch to regular yellow mustard, which gives you less than 1 gram of sugar per tablespoon.
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