Its in what we drink, its in much of what we eat, and it’s hiding in many foods that we would never suspect. Its in pickle relish, ketchup, bread, crackers, and nuts. Its in our peanut butter, coffee creamer, and yogurt. Its even in lunchmeat! What is it? Sugar. And, as sugar has been added to many of the foods we buy and eat, our nation has become fatter and unhealthier.
Doctors, health experts, and 95210: The Whole Picture of Health all advise us to eliminate added sugar from our diets. The 95210 tenant for sugar recommends zero exposure to sugar for children. But why is this so important? Here are four reasons to slash sugar.
1. Sugar adds empty calories to food. One teaspoon of sugar is equal to about 16 calories, and these calories add up quickly. One soda has about 40 grams, or 10 teaspoons and 160 calories, of sugar. But, your body does not get any nutritional benefit from those calories. Replace that soda with the sweetness of a Florida orange satisfies your sugar craving at less than 100 calories, with an extra punch of fiber as well!
2. Added sugar increases cholesterol. Higher intakes of added sugar have been linked to increased triglyceride (a type of fat) levels and lower HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) levels, both of which increase the risk for heart disease.
3. Reducing sugar can lower blood pressure. Some new research suggests that lowering sugar intake may help lower blood pressure, further reducing your risk of heart disease and your dependence on medications to manage your health.
4. Sugar increases fat storage. Simple sugar causes a spike in blood sugar levels, which can be helpful when we are active and need a quick burst of energy. But in a sedentary lifestyle, our bodies release insulin to process the sugar. If your muscles do not need the sugar for exercise, the next best place to put it is into fat cells for later use. When this happens too often, however, those cells become resistant to the insulin, which causes your body to release even more of it, which turns into a vicious cycle that can result in diabetes.
So, how do you know how much sugar is in the food you eat? Check out the ingredient list – not the Nutrition Facts label – on the package. Some names for sugar are easy to spot: sugar, honey, and molasses are some examples. Other names for sugar either end in –ose or have the word “syrup” in their name. To determine how many calories in a food come from sugar, look at the grams of sugar on the Nutrition Facts label. There are roughly 4 grams in a teaspoon, and 16 calories in each teaspoon of sugar. So, a food containing 40 grams of sugar is 10 teaspoons and 160 calories!
A goal to reduce your intake of added sugars today is a step toward improving your health tomorrow!