I have yet to master the art of making a good cup of joe. When I make coffee, there’s a certain color I try to achieve; it’s pretty much the color of a Starbucks espresso. And so I mindlessly add cream and packets and packets of sugar until I get the right color, not necessarily the right taste.
Adding sugar to coffee is probably one of the only times you can actually see how much sugar you’re consuming. Unless you’re a true baker (and don’t use store-bought cake mixes), you rarely get the sugar visual.
Try to imagine how much sugar you consume each day. You’ll most likely count packets of sugar, scoops of ice cream, or pieces of candy. News Flash! A lot of the food you eat has added sugar, including ketchup, baked beans, and bread. Added sugar is also used to boost the flavor of foods that have reduced salt and/or fat. According to Health.com, “Added sugars are those that do not occur naturally in a food [unlike fructose in fruits or lactose in milk products] but are added during processing or preparation.”
Beware of added sugar’s multiple aliases: High fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, raw sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose, and crystal dextrose.
Added sugar is the evil twin of natural sugar. “Although the body’s response to sugars does not depend on whether they are naturally present in food or added to foods, sugars found naturally in foods are part of the food’s total package of nutrients and other healthful components. In contrast, many foods that contain added sugars often supply calories, but few or no essential nutrients and no dietary fiber” (Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010). The American Heart Association recommends that “Americans drastically cut back on added sugar to help slow the obesity and heart disease epidemics.”
Added sugar is so sneaky. It seems almost impossible to completely remove added sugar from your diet. Here’s the recommended added sugar threshold according to the American Heart Association:
- 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women
- 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 state that on average, added sugar contributes 16% of total calories in American Diets. This is probably because added sugar is disguised in all of our favorite foods. Major sources of added sugar are:
- soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks (36% of added sugar intake)
- grain-based desserts (13%)
- sugar-sweetened fruit drinks (10%)
- dairy-based desserts (6%)
- candy (6%)
Try to cut back on these sweet treats and be mindful of what’s in the food you eat. Read the nutrition label and check the ingredients to see how much sugar is really in it. “Focus on eating the most nutrient-dense forms of foods from all food groups” (DGA). The next time you’re craving a slice of apple pie, have an apple instead.
By Alyssa Llamas