Walk down any grocery store aisle and you’re bound to be bombarded with the following: Low sugar! Reduced sugar! No high fructose corn syrup! But how much sugar is too much sugar?
The average American consumes around 80 grams (22 teaspoons) of added sugar a day, equally a whopping 350 calories. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams (six teaspoons) of added sugar per day for women, totaling about 100 calories. Bottom line – we have a national added sugar problem on our hands. Added sugars don’t just provide any old calories- they’re strictly empty calories, meaning no nutritional benefit.
A new study by the Center of Disease Control notes that too much added sugar in the diet leads to a higher risk of dying from heart disease. To be specific, sipping on one 12-ounce can of soda a day has enough added sugar to increase the odds of heart disease by 33%.
Need a visual? The average can of soda or fruit punch weighs in at about 10 teaspoons.
The risk doesn’t just apply to the soda addict. Anyone who exceeds more than 15% of their daily calories in added sugar of any form (think: cereal, salad dressing, flavored oatmeal), is increasing their risk as well.
Here is where it gets confusing – actual sugar is not the enemy. Our bodies need sugar to function properly, but it should be coming from natural sources of sugar versus added sugar. Natural sugars occur in two forms: fresh fruit and 100% fruit juices, and milk products. Natural sugars are also loaded with protein, calcium, and Vitamins A, C, and D. Not to mention the bonus natural fiber in fresh fruit, which will make you feel full longer and ensure your blood sugar doesn’t jump through the roof. 
Added sugar is a master of trickery; it’s hidden in products for moisture, preservation, and taste purposes, likely without you ever knowing. To be more inconspicuous, both natural and added sugars are grouped together under the general “sugar” category on a food label, giving us no differentiation. This calls upon your best detective skills to find the hidden added sugar ingredients, possibly including: 
- Agave nectar
- Evaporated cane juice
- Cane crystals
- Fruit juice concentrates
Raise the red flag even higher if one of these ingredients is listed first or second, or if multiple sugar ingredients appear on a single label.
Another helpful hint: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. Do the math when you read food labels, so you can better visualize your intake.
There is hope for the future: the US Food and Drug Administration will release new food label requirements in the upcoming year.  Fingers crossed that there will be a distinguishing factor between added and natural sugars, though no official statement has been made on the topic.
Like all things health, awareness is key. Spend some time getting familiar with food labels, and your heart (and waistline) will thank you.
- Posted by holx-admin
- On June 12, 2014