Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Friday, May 23, 2014

How Sweet It Is: Are You Eating More Sugar Than You Realize?

Obesity is at epidemic proportions and just who is to blame is tough to say. Fed Up, a new documentary from Katie Couric and Stephanie Soechtig, takes on the government and the food industry in a potent expose’ on the amount of sugar in our food supply and how it is fueling the obesity epidemic in our country. The film has created quite a bit of controversy, and while sugar may not be solely to blame for obesity, you may be shocked to learn just how much you are actually eating.
Sugar Shockers
Sugar is a carbohydrate found naturally in many foods from the lactose in milk to the fructose in fruit and honey. In fact, we need some sugar in our diets to fuel our muscles and feed our brains. But in our society of convenience, people rely on packaged and processed foods, foods that are loaded with added sugars supplying extra calories we just don’t need. A high intake of processed sugars causes our blood sugar to shoot up, giving us quick energy followed by a slump, which leaves us tired and craving more sugary foods. It’s a vicious cycle that could lead to obesity, tooth problems, heart disease, and not-so-healthy eating habits.
What’s My Daily Allowance?
The World Health Organization recently dropped its sugar intake recommendations from 10 percent of your daily calorie intake to five percent. For a normal weight adult, that’s about 25 grams or six teaspoons per day. And that’s the TOTAL sugar including both naturally occurring sugars as well as sugars added to foods during processing. Unfortunately the current food label doesn’t distinguish between added and natural sugars so the best way to cut added sugars out of your diet is to limit processed foods as much as possible and to satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit.
Spot the Hidden Sugar
One thing is for sure, just because a product has a nutrition-oriented statement on the package like “whole grain” or “25% less sugar” doesn’t mean it still doesn’t contain a shocking amount of sugar. For example, seemingly healthy foods like Fiber One Muffin Mix or Quaker Oatmeal to go have 15 grams and 19 grams of sugar respectively, per serving.
Look on the Label
Check the ingredient list for anything ending in “ose” (dextrose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, fructose) – these are all forms of sugar as are the following:
·      Brown sugar
·      Corn sweetener
·      Corn syrup
·      High fructose corn syrup
·      Fruit juice concentrates
·      Honey
·      Invert sugar
·      Malt sugar
·      Molasses
·      Raw sugar
·      Syrup
·      Rice syrup
·      Agave
Keep in mind that the higher up the ingredient list, the more sugar the product contains.
Alternatives to Sugar
When reading labels it’s also good to know your substitutes. For example, sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol occur naturally in small amounts in fruits and are often used in low-calorie products to provide sweetness but with fewer calories.
There are also a number of FDA approved no-calorie sweeteners on the market including: neotame, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose, which are all chemically based; and two plant/fruit based alternatives: one made from extracts of the leaves of the stevia plant, and one made from extracts of the Swingle fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo or monk fruit.
Ways to Cut Down on Your Sugar
Making a few simple adjustments to your diet can go a long way towards reducing the amount of added sugars in your diet. But you also want to limit the amount of sugar you add at the table, whether it’s table sugar (4 grams of sugar per teaspoon), maple syrup (4 grams per teaspoon), or honey (5.6 grams per teaspoon). Use the following list to cut down on the hidden sugar in your diet:
·      Avoid low-fat “diet” foods, which tend to replace fat with sugar. Instead, have smaller portions of the regular version.
·      Stick to one glass of fruit juice a day (or dilute it) and keep sweet drinks like soft drinks and alcohol for special occasions. Enjoy herbal teas or water with slices of citrus fruit.
·      For a pick me up, have a piece of whole fruit sliced into plain yogurt instead of choosing fruited yogurt.
·      The amount of sugar in most recipes can usually be cut in half without affecting the product. Or try baking with stevia instead.
You don’t need to totally eliminate sugar from your diet, but there is no doubt that much of our food supply is loaded with extra calories that we just don’t need. Stay within your recommended sugar intake and balance it by eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains, and get regular physical activity. And if you make a practice of eliminating or limiting processed foods as much as possible you won’t spend as much time staring at food labels and counting sugar grams.


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