Being sweet isn’t a good thing. At least, not when it comes to our food. Americans face increasing levels of significant health problems, and it’s all because we are obsessed with sugar.
America’s Sugar Habit
Americans are facing a deadly crisis – one that’s only getting worse over time. It’s an addiction that starts in childhood, and manufacturers from coast to coast capitalize on our obsession with it.
The culprit? Sugar.
Americans consume more sugar than any other nation in the world. More than half of all adults and one-third of all children eat more than the daily recommended limit of sugar.
All that sugar is anything but sweet for our bodies. This sugary crisis leads to very sour outcomes, like increased risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, increased rates of obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
While many of us can spot the obvious sources of sugar in our diets, like soda and chocolate cake, others aren’t as clear. Sugar has become a staple in the American diet, and it is literally killing us.
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
The American Heart Association recommends women eat no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. That’s about 100 calories or about six teaspoons of sugar. Men should have no more than 36 grams per day.
Let’s start by saying that not all sugar is bad. Many foods contain natural sugars, like fruits, some vegetables, and milk. While there are instances where natural sugars exceed your daily recommended limits (hello, fruit juice!), you can generally eat fruits and vegetables without worrying too much about sugar intake.
The real danger comes from added sugars. Many processed and refined foods have TONS of added sugar. Manufacturers know that sweetness sells. So, they hyper-process the foods we eat, stripping them of nutritional content and adding extra sugar. Even foods that we equate with health – like energy bars, sports drinks, and dried fruit – can have insane amounts of added sugar.
Sneaky Sugar Sources
Avoiding added sugars can feel like an impossible task. We all know the main culprits: soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, sugary cereals, snack cakes, and cookies. Keeping those out of your home (and out of your mouth) will go a long way towards eliminating added sugar from your diet.
But there are many sneaky sugar sources, too. Some less obvious offenders (often masquerading as healthy choices) include:
- Low-fat and flavored yogurts
- Dairy-free milk products
- Granola bars and energy bars
- Dried fruits and trail mix
- Salad dressings and marinades
- Some canned soups
- Spaghetti Sauce
If you’re not carefully reading the labels, you could easily eat your daily limit of sugar before even finishing breakfast. Reading those labels can be tricky, too. Not all products say “sugar” on the label. Many manufacturers add sweeteners with names like dextrose, fructose, glucose, or corn sweeteners. One rule of thumb: if you see the suffix -ose, it’s sugar. Steer clear.
How to Cut Back on Sugar Consumption
Eliminating added sugar can be difficult, but with a little knowledge and some extra effort, you can ensure you aren’t overdoing it. Here are a few easy ways to cut back on the sweet stuff:
- Swap refined sugars for natural sweeteners. If you MUST have some added sweetness, use honey or agave nectar instead of table sugar.
- Skip the juice. Fruit juices are packed with sugar. Even 100% juice contains more sugar in a single glass than you should have in an entire day. Instead, try eating a piece of whole fruit and pair it with a glass of water.
- Eat more protein. Eating protein-rich meals and snacks doesn’t just help build those muscles (hey there, strong lady). These foods can also help you feel full longer, keeping you from that mid-afternoon dash for a sugar-loaded snack.
- Rethink the drink. Skip that morning latte from your favorite coffee shop and try a non-sweetened herbal tea instead. Drink water with lemon instead of juice or soda. Swapping out one beverage a day can drastically reduce your sugar intake.
- Read the labels. If you’re part of our community, you’re probably already fairly health-conscious. But just because you THINK a food is healthy doesn’t mean it IS healthy. Read labels carefully, keeping an eye out for sneaky sugars like corn syrup, dextrose, or glucose.
We know you’re sweet (and a little bit sassy), but your meals don’t have to be. Cut out the sugar and take care of your health.