Are you being sweet to your heart?
Findings from a major study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine indicate that chronic overconsumption of added sugar greatly increases your risk for heart disease-related death. With heart disease as the leading cause of death in the US, the American Heart Association recommends that men and women limit their daily intake of added sugar to nine and six teaspoons, respectively. Most Americans consume 2-3 times that amount everyday!
In order to effectively limit added sugar, you need to know what to look for. First, there are two types of sugar in your diet, naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in fruit, as fructose, and in milk, as lactose. In contrast, added sugars include any and all sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. Most of us know that added sugar is in sodas and sweets, but have you taken a closer look at your cereal box, flavored yogurt, or pasta sauce? Many of these products and more are loaded with added sugar.
When reading the nutrition facts panel of a food or beverage you have to look past the line of “sugars” as it combines both naturally occurring and added sugars. Instead read the ingredient list to identify added sugars commonly named sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup. However, a team of health scientists from the University of San Francisco, have identified more than 60 names for sugar added to foods and beverages. Despite having different names, all added sugars are a source of extra calories with one teaspoon providing 16 calories.
Here are a few simple ways to start subtracting added sugars (and calories) from your diet:
- Cut the amount of sugar you add to your morning coffee or tea by half.
- Sweeten plain yogurt or oatmeal with fresh or frozen fruit.
- Swap soda for water or sugar-free/low-calorie drinks.
- Choose a cereal that contains less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
- Replace sugar in baking with unsweetened applesauce or dried fruit, such as raisins or dates.
- Try stevia, a natural sugar substitute.
- Compare food labels and choose items with less sugar.
- Avoid foods that list an added sugar as the first or second ingredient.
Remember: Be sweet to your heart and subtract added sugars from you diet – you don’t need them you are already sweet enough!
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Katie Jones for her contributions to this post.