Dear Dietitian: added sugar
Another year is behind us, and now it's time to get back to our normal routines. Many of us, including myself, have overeaten during the holidays; it's just part of it. It's a great time with family, close friends, and homemade desserts. Every year a family friend bakes a homemade pecan pie using fresh pecans from her own property, and believe me, it is a slice of paradise!
Special occasions aside, Americans eat a lot of sugar, with some estimates totaling 57 pounds of added sugar per person per year (1). The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 6 teaspoons per day (24 grams) for women and 8 teaspoons (32 grams) a day for men (2).
To be clear, we are talking about added sugar, not naturally occurring sugar found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Sugar is not inherently bad for you. It's the excessive amount that becomes a problem. Lots of sugar means lots of calories, which may lead to weight gain and put one at greater risk for certain diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
As of January 1, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list the amount of added sugars in their product on the Nutrition Facts label. While most of us recognize sugar, or sucrose, there are other ingredients that are very similar to sugar and should be noted:
--Any food with sugar in its name, for example, coconut sugar or date sugar
--Fruit juice concentrate
--High fructose corn syrup
--Nectar, for example, apricot or agave nectar
--Syrup and any food with syrup in its name, such as rice syrup or maple syrup
These are some practical tips for decreasing sugar in your diet:
--Focus on fresh foods, as these will not have added sugars.
--Cut out sugar-sweetened beverages. Drink more water; try flavor enhancers; switch to diet drinks.
--Cut back on adding sugar at the table. Start by using half the amount of sugar you normally use and decrease from there. Use fruit to sweeten your cereal or oatmeal.
--Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. These foods will provide vitamins and minerals, which will help decrease cravings. The fruit will also help satisfy a sweet tooth.
--If you like to have sweets in your everyday diet, try to limit them to 100-200 calories per day. You may also consider saving dessert for a once-a-week treat.
Until next time, be healthy!
1. How much is too much? The growing concern over too much added sugar in our diet. (n.d.) In sugarscience. Retrieved January 5, 2020 from https://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.XhKtEspMGf1
2. Added Sugars (April 17, 2018) In American Heart Association. Retrieved January 5, 2020 from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars
Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC, aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning dietitian nutritionist based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.