Sweet is normally a very positive word. We talk about the sweet old lady and the sweet smelling flowers. We even speak of sweet dreams. But when we speak of sweet in relation to food it is not always all positive, especially if this sweet is as a result of overuse of sugar.
Are you concerned about your sugar intake?
We hear very often that the population is consuming too much sugar. Some countries are even putting restrictions on sugary products served in school cafeterias and there are media campaigns urging the citizens to consume less sugar. It’s not surprising considering that so many health issues are made worse by excessive intake of sugar.
But how much is too much sugar?
All the starch and fruits that we eat is broken down by the body into sugar which provides fuel for the brain. We really don’t need the added sugar which in excess can have detrimental effects on health.
A relative of mine was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. It is the first close family member with this disease so you can imagine there was a lot of searching and researching in regards to this disease and what the family member could now safely eat.
Checking food labels is now an important ritual for us. When it comes to grocery shopping every food item that is picked up is carefully scrutinized for its sugar content.
Well, we are still trying to recover from the shock of our discovery………..Almost everything we picked up at the supermarket had sugar in it. Who would expect a tin of mixed vegetables (carrots, green peas, string beans) to have sugar in it? And I am not talking about the natural sugars in the food. I read the ingredients and there it was…….carrots, green peas, string beans, sugar, salt. Why on earth is it necessary to add sugar to the veggies?
Watch out! Added sugar is everywhere.
How Much Sugar Should I Eat
The American Heart Association recommends not more than 24 g of added sugar per day for females and 36 g of sugar per day for males. That works out to 6 teaspoons of sugar for female and 9 teaspoons of sugar for male.
Now tell me ladies, did you have 25 g of sugar yesterday? What about you men…. Did you have only 36 g of sugar? Well I certainly did not and I am horrified at the amount of sugar I consumed.
I did have four small cookies and some fruit drink during the day. When I checked, I realized that the fruit drink which I normally gulp down so easily had 37 g of sugar per serving. I was shocked. I never realized that there was so much added sugar in a drink which I have so often.
But I was in for another shock.
On closer examination of the bottle, I saw that it contained two servings. I normally consume the entire bottle so that would be 74 g of sugar in the one drink.
Drink With high sugar content
The four cookies added about another 20 g of sugar.
Well I stopped counting. I didn’t bother to check the amount of sugar I consumed at breakfast or at dinner because I was already way, way, over my limit. My husband and I often discuss the importance of cutting down on the use of sugar because we realize the significant health benefits. We would dutifully cut down on the amount of sugar we use when making our delicious, refreshing fruit drinks but we were not paying attention to the amount of added sugar in just about everything else that we ate.
How much is too much sugar?
While the recommendation is 6 or 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day (depending on the sex), the average person consumes over 22 teaspoons of sugar each day which works out to about 77 pounds of sugar per year. That is way too much sugar.
How could that be?
Added sugar is found in many foods that you would not expect to find it in. So while you may take comfort in the fact that you do not eat a lot of cake and ice cream, do you know that you can find quite a bit of added sugar in your bread, in your pasta sauce, your tinned vegetable, your “healthy” energy bars, your fruit flavored yogurt (sweet from the added sugar and not the added fruit), fruit juice drinks, breakfast cereals, canned fruits, barbecue sauce…
One person’s mission through the supermarket aisles revealed shockingly high levels of sugar in common everyday foods. See the results of that mission here.
How can we go about reducing our sugar consumption?
The number one way is to drastically decrease or cut out added sugar from the diet. This means you will have to part company with some of your beloved processed foods.
I hope you are not already having withdrawal symptoms just thinking about it.
Okay, to make it easier, maybe you don’t have to part company totally with your beloved foods at the beginning but certainly limit your consumption of foods with high amounts of added sugars, such as sugar-sweetened beverages. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories and zero nutrition.
Another way is to prepare more of your food at home because then you will know what exactly is in it.
Take flavored yogurt for example. Why not switch to the unflavored type and add your own blend of fruits to sweeten. You will be cutting out a lot of added sugar.
Try making your own healthy smoothies at home. Commercially prepared smoothies are often very high in added sugars.
So how are we going to sweeten our food?
Add fruits. Fruits are natural sweeteners.
The primary sugar in fruit is fructose. Fruits also contain water, fiber and lots of beneficial nutrients, thus making it a key choice in a balanced and healthy diet.
The fiber in the fruit allows the sugar to be absorbed slowly in the body and helps keep glucose levels under control.
Add fruits to your juices, pastries, smoothies, cereals, oatmeal, yogurt etc. and put the refined sugar away……far away.
Don’t go overboard with the sugar in fruits.
Not because it is natural means you must consume without any limitations. Be moderate in everything. If you take bunches of grapes, place them in the juice extractor and then drink several glasses of this concentrated juice throughout the day, that’s a lot of sugar.
Diabetics, be careful.
Diabetics in particular have to be careful about the amount and types of fruits they consume. Some fruits are actually quite high in sugar like grapes and mangoes. Others like berries have lower sugar content. Pay special attention to the amount and types of fruits you eat and be on the look out for hidden sugars.
Here is a list of some common fruits and their sugar content.
The next move is yours. You can choose to continue your old eating habits and let the chips fall where they may or you may choose to adjust your diet so that you will fall more in line with the recommended daily allowance of sugar. Remember, eating too much added sugar increases your risk of heart disease and cancer and is a leading cause of obesity. We need to keep our immune system working efficiently especially in these times when there are all sorts of dangerous virus and bacteria that we are exposed to and unfortunately, sugar is known to depress the immune system.
It’s not easy to retrain our taste buds after years of bad eating practices but……
we can do it.
Are you one of the many persons who have to fight to control your sugar intake? We would love to hear your experiences.
Feel free to share in the comments section below.