Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How Sweet are You?

Based on the average American’s diet, you’re probably pretty sweet! Did you know that most people eat about 400 calories worth of added sugar each day? That’s 20 teaspoons of sugar! Find that hard to believe? Take a look at these sugar contents, keeping in mind that one teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and 16 calories:

• 12 oz. soda = 8 tsp.
• 1 tablespoon ketchup = 1 tsp.
• 1 tablespoon creamer = 2 tsp.
• 8 oz. sweetened yogurt = 7 tsp.
• 1 tablespoon jam = 1.5 tsp.
• 1 oz. chocolate = 4 tsp.

When you consider that it takes 3500 extra calories to gain a pound, it’s easy to see why so many people are overweight today. Besides the toll sugar takes on the waistline and teeth, sugar in its various forms causes the following concerns for health experts: it raises triglycerides, increasing the risk of heart attack; it might boost visceral fat, deep abdominal fat linked to a higher risk of heart disease; it raises the risk of gout and high blood pressure; it could promote overeating; and it’s generally found in foods of little nutritional value – junk food (Nutrition Action Health Letter, Jan./Feb. 2010).

Do health experts suggest that we ban sugar altogether? Not necessarily, although the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adding no more than 8 tsp. per day sugar based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories. That’s the equivalent of 32 grams or 6% of your total calories for the day.

It’s not realistic to eliminate all sugar from your diet since some occurs naturally in foods and food labels don’t distinguish naturally occurring sugar from added sugar. If you’d like to reduce your sugar consumption, or at least be more aware of it, watch for these ingredients on food labels: dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, fruit juice concentrate, malt syrup, molasses, invert sugar, honey, sorghum, and cane sugar (Environmental Nutrition, March 2010). Don’t be fooled into thinking that some of these are better for you than others – they’re not. Added sugars are added sugars.

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