It seems like every time I turn around there is a new study or information about how bad certain foods are for my body. Conventional wisdom says if you avoid fast food, you’re doing alright. If you cut down on alcohol and soda intake, you’re doing even better. And that’s all true – but it’s not enough. You’ve got to stay on top of almost everything in your diet. Today’s most recent sad food discovery? Manufacturers add LOTS of sugar to food in order to make it taste better. And…you guessed it…it’s not healthy for us.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes about 156 pounds of added sugar each year. Yes, you read that correctly. 156 pounds. And in case that number isn’t enough to freak you out, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there’s a significant correlation between dietary added sugars and an increased risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
Foods like fruits, vegetables and milk contain natural sugar, but manufacturers add extra sugar during processing, to boost the flavor or aid with preservation.
On top of that, many people also add sugar to foods on their own (I add brown sugar to my oatmeal, for example).
American adults eat about 104 grams of sugar per day, but the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 25 grams per day for women and to 37.5 grams a day for men.
Dr. Marie Savard, medical contributor for Good Morning America, says that teens are especially prone to OD’ing on sugar – getting more than six times their recommended sugar intake – or 161 grams per day.
You might be surprised to see just how much added sugar appears in certain foods – especially foods deemed “healthy.”
For example, a 16-ounce latte may have about 17 grams of sugar, but a Starbucks Frappucino of the same size has about three times the amount of added sugar.
Fruit smoothies may also contain surprising amounts of sugar. One Odwalla Original Superfood bottled smoothie has about 50 grams of sugar – the rough equivalent of about the amount of sugar found in five donuts.
Sugars may also be found in another surprising place: sandwiches.
A 6-inch chicken submarine sandwich has have 17 grams of sugar. However, Lunchables, a popular packed school lunch, may have 36 grams – or twice that of the sandwich. The sub may have 17 grams of sugar, a Lunchables package may have 36 grams – or twice that of the sandwich.
So how can you avoid the risk of added sugars? Artificial sweeteners – right? Not exactly. Artificial sweeteners don’t add calories, but they do create a craving for more sweets.
Splenda is about 600 times as sweet as table sugar, Sweet’N Low is about 300 times as sweet and Equal is about 200 times as sweet.
Consumers are now also being offered agave, a sweetener promoted as natural but which is all fructose. Agave is processed and has calories. This kind of sugar gets packed on as fat in the liver.
So what’s the overall takeaway message? Keep an eye on your sugar intake. Read the labels and try to avoid adding even more sugar to your diet (coffee, oatmeal, etc.). Just because something is deemed “healthy,” doesn’t necessarily mean that it is 100% safe. We must be vigilant about these things. Something may be low in calories, but high in sugar. It’s about weighing your options and eating various foods in moderation.
Good luck and please let us know of any new developments you hear about. We’ll try to do the same!