The Ingredient That’s Killing You

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A smiling family cooking in their kitchen

You love your family (and yourself) and you want everybody to be healthy.

Thankfully, there are many different things you can do to help them achieve that goal, including encouraging more water, more produce and less junk food.

However, there’s another hidden ingredient in the American diet that has gotten way out of control in many households…

Sugar.

You already know about the dangers of excess sugar. Countless studies have proven its relationships with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, fatigue, and even some cancers.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), there may be an easy way to better control your family’s overall sugar intake – limiting added sugar. In fact, in a recent article, a family chronicled their year-long journey of cutting almost all added sugar completely out of their diet.

Added Sugar?

Just think about this: the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. This is nearly four times the recommended daily amount.

The two main sources of added sugar are:

  • Sugar you’ve added to food yourself (this includes everything from table sugar to maple syrup)
  • Processed/prepared foods

The American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that Americans drastically cut back on added sugar, and recommends no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) for most men.

Here are some easy tips to help cut added sugar out of your diet:

Stop sprinkling extra sugar on everything. Do you absolutely need five teaspoons of sugar in your coffee? Why are you putting sugar on your fruit, which is naturally sweet all on its own? Try harder to appreciate the natural flavors of whole foods. Also, it’s important to remember that sweet treats CAN be enjoyed – in moderation.

Buy plain instead of flavored. An example of this is yogurt. Yogurt can be a great addition to your diet, but not with tons of added sugar. Instead, buy plain yogurt and add some fresh, naturally-sweet berries.

Stop buying soft drinks. Soft drinks are a prime source of extra calories that can contribute to weight gain and provide no nutritional benefits. Studies show that sugary drinks can make people continue to feel hungry – after drinking them.

Re-think that breakfast cereal. Many common breakfast foods, such as cold cereal, cereal bars, and instant oatmeal with added flavorings, can contain high amounts of added sugars.Instead, choose unsweetened cereals, consider healthy breakfast options like eggs and whole-grain toast, and/or consider the wide variety of different types of healthy smoothies you can make – which can all be made without adding sugar.

Start reading those food labels. Though food and beverage manufacturers list a product’s total amount of sugar per serving on the Nutrition Facts Panel, they are not required to list how much of that sugar is added sugar versus naturally occurring sugar – this is why you often may need to search the label for added sugar. Paying attention to the amount of total sugar is the key.

It’s also important to note that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so if sugar is listed as the first or second ingredient, it’s a good indication of how much sugar the product contains.

The Many Faces Of Sugar

According to experts, food manufactures can sometimes be tricky: in order to avoid having “sugar” listed as the first ingredient, they sometimes list multiple forms of sugar– each with a different name – individually on a nutrition label so that it’s more difficult for consumers to figure out the overall sugar content of a product.

Also, remember that, whether it’s agave syrup or brown sugar or table sugar, your body treats all sugar the same…as sugar. So don’t be fooled if you notice different types of sugars scattered all throughout a product’s nutrition label.

To help limit the amount of added sugar you and your family are eating, knowing a product’s total sugar amount is key, as well as learning the many different names that sugar can also go by:

  • Agave nectar
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Malt syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Fructose
  • Maple syrup
  • Cane crystals
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Molasses
  • Cane sugar
  • Glucose
  • Raw sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Invert sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose

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