When it comes to dieting, eating healthy, and trying to reduce fat on our bodies, we tend to try to avoid sugars, carbs, and processed foods. We also tend to believe that reducing sugars in our diet can be easy when we make food at home. But sugars can still be found naturally in foods that contain carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and diary.
Consuming foods that naturally have sugar is not bad for us, those foods also contain fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants. The issue with sugar comes with processed foods. Added sugars give these items a sweet taste. Most Americans get too many calories from added sugars and over time this may affect their weight and health.
Many people think of desserts as the main source of added sugars, but many foods and drinks contain added sugars. For example, sweetened drinks like regular soft drinks, some fruit drinks and energy drinks are all sources of added sugars. Snack foods, like crackers, and even ready-to-eat foods, like pizza and pasta sauces, can be made with added sugars. Some people may also add sugar to what they eat and drink, like sprinkling sugar over cereal or pouring flavored creamer in their coffee.
Sugar and Your Health
Naturally occurring sugar consumptions isn’t the worst thing for your health and weight. These foods contain many nutrients our bodies need to be healthy. According to a Harvard study: a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
On the other hand, a high intake of food with added sugars have the direct opposite affect on our bodies. American adults consume around 24 teaspoons of sugar per day, which equates to roughly 384 calories.
How to Identify Sources of Added Sugars
The ingredients that appear first are in the largest amount. Be sure to look for foods and drinks that don’t have sugar (or some other sweetener) listed as the first ingredient. Other examples of sweeteners and sources of added sugars include: brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, white granulated sugar.
Sources of added sugars often lack nutrients needed for good health, while foods and drinks that contain natural sources of sugar provide nutrients, like vitamins and minerals. For example, fruits like strawberries are a great source of vitamin C, and milk provides vitamins A and D, calcium, and protein.
It’s not necessary to avoid all sources of added sugars. The problem is that many of us include too many sources of added sugars or eat and drink larger amounts than is recommended. When this happens there is less room for more nutritious foods and drinks.
Tips on How to Reduce Sources of Added Sugars
- If you have a taste for something sweet, try eating some fruit first.
- Make or buy healthier versions of baked goods.
- Opt for foods and drinks with less added sugars, or eat or drink higher sugar content items in smaller amounts.
- Sweeten low-fat plain yogurt with fresh, frozen or canned (in its own juice) fruit in place of fruit-flavored yogurt.
- Add cinnamon and dried fruit to plain cooked oats instead of using instant flavored oatmeal.
- Encourage healthier drinks like plain milk and water for young children.
- Substitute 100% fruit juice for fruit punch and other fruit-flavored drinks for older children.
- Switch from sweetened to unsweetened applesauce.
- Drink plain low-fat milk instead of chocolate milk.
- Use jams and jellies with no sugar added. · Enjoy a homemade smoothie with frozen fruit, low-fat milk and yogurt in place of ice cream.
- Quench your thirst with water or plain low-fat milk instead of sweetened beverages, like energy, soft and sports drinks.
- Include healthier choices from the MyPlate food groups in place of foods and drinks with added sugars to better meet your nutrient needs.
It can be hard to cold quit added sugars. So work on ways to limit the amount you consume first and slowly begin to work them out of your diet. Start drinking your coffee black, switch to eating vegetables with lunch instead of chips or fries, maybe even try to make everything at home. A lot of times sugar is added to foods so that they last longer on the shelf, but that also makes them last longer in our bodies too.