As we approach the holiday season, starting with Halloween, sweet foods are usually in abundance in every American home. Most know how to avoid the overt sweet foods, like candies, cake, cookies, ice cream, on a regular basis. But one of the real tricks to weight loss is managing the hidden sugars in your diet. What is the recommended daily sugar intake for an American? And how does one avoid the hidden sugars? Believe me, they are everywhere!
Naturally Occuring Sugars versus Added Sugars
To set the record straight, we can consume 2 types of sugars in our diet – naturally occuring sugars and added sugars. Naturally occuring sugars are found naturally in food, like fruit or vegetables, usually in the form of fructose, or in milk, in the form of lactose. Added sugars include any sugars added to foods that we consume, like to our coffee or cereal. This can come in the form of sugar, brown sugar, honey or other sweeteners. Added sugars are not all bad, as we can control the amount of sugar if we are to sweeten our plain yogurt, rather than consuming sweetened yogurt, which in some cases has more sugar than ice cream!
Where is the Sugar?
Where do most Americans consume their added sugars? Some of the sources of our added sugars aren’t surprising at all, like baked goods and desserts. But it’s the sneaky sources that we have to watch out for, like our beverages or seemingly healthy non-fat foods, like fruit yogurt! Here’s a quick snapshot of a few high sugar bombs with the associated calories derived from added sugars:
- 12 oz soda = 132 calories
- 6 oz non-fat fruit yogurt = 77 calories
- Bar of milk chocolate = 76 calories
- 1 cake doughnut = 74 calories
- 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream = 48 calories
- 1 chocolate chip cookie = 16 calories
And remember, when you are reading labels, that the ingredients aren’t always obvious for added sugars. Sugars are usually hidden in a variety of names including brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, dextrose, fructose, lactose, sucrose, glucose, maltose, or syrup.
Daily Sugar Intake – Recommended Guidelines
According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily sugar intake (added sugars) for men is 36g/day, 9 teaspoons or 150 calories. The recommended daily sugar intake (added sugars) for women is 24g/day, 6 teaspoons or 100 calories. Let that sink in. That is NOT a lot. The average American has been slowly consuming more and more sugar in the past 30 years, which has been directly causing our obesity epidemic. This has come in the form of processed foods, like cakes, cookies, candies, ice cream or even in our drinks. Drinking our sugars may be the worst offender of recent years, with the advent of coffee drinks from places like Starbucks, as these are truly empty calories. And there are now countless drinks like Vitamin Water, posing as a healthy option for a beverage, but is loaded with unnecessary sugar. The sugar in these drinks can really add up, and it is especially scary for children who haven’t fully understood the dangers of too much sugar in the diet.
Why watch your daily sugar intake?
What happens to your body when you take in too much sugar? Most people know the link between increased sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, with 21M diagnosed in 2012, and 8.1M were undiagnosed. The incidence of type 2 diabetes in children is also on the rise, with nearly 0.25% of the population under 20 being diagnosed with type 2. Sugar also causes our organs to store fat more efficiently, and who wants more fat? Heart disease, clogged arteries, and bad cholesterol are directly affected by increased sugar levels. Did you know that high blood sugar is also directly linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease or diabetes of the brain? And we all know how sugar makes us feel – it makes us ravenous for more food, you can get addicted to sugar, and you get highs and lows, which feel incredibly awful. Finally, sugar wreaks havoc on your skin, causing a breakdown of collagen and elastin. This breakdown results in more wrinkles and brittle skin. Yuck.
Guys, it’s just not worth it. Focus on real foods and real sugars. All those added sugars just cause too much trouble. Register with us and track your nutrition so that you can lay off the sweets! And check out some of our low-sugar snacks that are easy to make and only include naturally-occurring sugars…
Basil Peach Green Smoothie – only 13g of sugar
Peanut Butter & Oat Protein Cookie – only 4g of sugar