It’s not so sweet

By: Noelle Harada, Columnist

Sugar. Whether it’s in our cereal, in the form of candy, or even in what we drink, it’s everywhere. It comes in many forms, though we may not always recognize it.

Anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, evaporated cane juice and fructose are just a few of the possible names of added sugar that we can find on food labels.

According to the 2015 U.S Dietary Guidelines, added sugars count for, on average, 270 calories, or 13 percent of calories per day for the U.S. population. The recommended amount is less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars per day. So if you consume 2000 calories, 200 of those calories (or fewer) should be from added sugars.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than nine teaspoons (about 150 calories) of added sugars per day for men, and six teaspoons (about 100 calories) for women. Reducing your intake of added sugars lowers your risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer.

Added sugar in general is something we need to constantly look out for as consumers. With things like candy and cake, most of us know what we are getting ourselves into, sugar-wise.

The worrisome part is when we find added sugar hidden in things such as bread, soymilk, yogurt and many other products we may think are generally good to eat.

Beverages, not including milk and 100 percent juice, account for 47 percent of our sugar intake. After that, 31 percent of our sugar comes from snacks and sweets, which is less surprising.

Another concern is that 11 percent of added sugars come from fruit drinks. It is always advised that you choose 100 percent juice when it comes to fruit drinks, but some can be fooled by the “all natural” and “real fruit added” marketing gimmicks that sugary drinks have on their labels.

The best way to avoid surpassing the daily recommended amounts for sugar is to avoid processed food as much as possible and always check the ingredient list for added sugar.

How did we get here? Well, in the 1970s the United States became alarmed at the amount of fat the average person was consuming, which led to food manufacturers cutting back on fat content.

What could possibly be bad about this? Unfortunately, the cut back in fat led to a big addition of sugar in our foods to compensate for taste and to keep consumers happy. Now, according to the documentary “Fed Up” over 80 percent of American processed foods contain added sugar.

In order to avoid becoming part of the statistic that will develop diabetes, heart disease or obesity, there are many simple measures we can take. Weaning off of soda is the first step. This doesn’t mean people should make the transition to diet soda, as that has its drawbacks as well.

According to health.gov, “It should be noted that replacing added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short-term, yet questions remain about their effectiveness as a long-term weight management strategy.”

I have encountered many people who openly admit that they are addicted to drinking soda, and many of them have made the simple transition to water.

Water obviously doesn’t offer any taste, but adding some fruit or even some cucumbers to “infuse” a water bottle is both healthy and satisfying to many people.

Water bottles with a separate compartment for adding fruit can be purchased almost anywhere.

Did you know that one 20-oz bottle of Pepsi has 69 grams of sugar? That’s 17.25 teaspoons. What about Mountain Dew Baja Blast? A 20-ounce bottle has 73 grams of sugar.

Or you may think the Pure Leaf bottled lemon tea is better. Not really. That has 41 grams of sugar, about ten teaspoons. So if you are a soda drinker, the switch to infused water could save you from a disturbing amount of added sugar.

Homemade fruit and vegetable smoothies, infused water, fruit and dates are some of the simpler options available for sugar cravings that are healthy and sometimes much more filling than other processed options. Sugar is everywhere, but obesity and diabetes do not have to be.

For more information, contact campus dietitian Kerry Ballek at kballek@towson.edu.

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