Watch Out for Hidden Sugars

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Excess of Sugar is Harmful to One's Health

There are many reasons why an excess of sugar is harmful to one's health. One major risk of consuming too much sugar is that it may lead to weight gain and obesity which increases the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

According to recent studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans now consume 19 percent more added sugar in their daily diet than they did in 1970. Yet, we live in a more health conscious time and society than ever before. A reason for these sugar "highs" may be a result of "hidden sugars" in our food and beverages. Most people are unaware of the added "hidden sugars" they are eating and drinking everyday.

Natural Sugar

Natural sugar occurs in its natural state, such as in fruits, vegetables or milk. Added sugar is any sugar that doesn't stay in its natural state and serves only as a source of empty calories. One of the major issues with the country's increase in sugar intake is that companies are very good at hiding how much sugar is added to products.

Hidden Sugars

Something may be marketed as "healthy" or "all-natural" when in reality, it's not. "Hidden sugars" are in many yogurts, breads, cereals, bagels, condiments, sauces, granola bars, canned vegetables, processed meats and more. When it comes to reading food labels, all sugars are grouped together so it is hard to distinguish between natural sugars and added sugars.

Several health organizations, including the American Heart Association, suggest that added sugar should be limited to no more than 6-7 percent of your total calories. That means if your daily caloric intake is 1,800 — you should have no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar. Many products have 2-3 times that amount of sugar in one serving.

How to Avoid Hidden Sugars

The best way to avoid purchasing products with added sugars is by reading the ingredient list on food products. The ingredient list may include sugar, but it also can list other types of sugar in the form of sucrose, glucose, dextrose, glucose syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrin, corn sweeteners or malt. It is important to learn to identify these "added sugar terms" and limit products with them, as much as possible.

Along with reading ingredient lists, there are other ways you can monitor and limit the amount of sugar you consume:

  • Try substituting sugar with natural sweeteners, such as honey or agave nectar, when baking or cooking at home.
  • Use fruits to naturally sweeten your food.
  • Drink more water – the sugar content in soda, many fruit juices, sports drinks and teas is astonishing.
  • Make your own home-made sauces and salad dressings. That way, you can control how much added sugar, if any, is being used.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25.8 million children and adults — 8.3% of the population — have diabetes. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and is a perfect time to become conscious of your sugar intake and begin making simple life-style changes for a happier and healthier future.