by Allison Knott, MS, RDN, LDN
Cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, nectar, honey, brown rice syrup. Would you be surprised to know that each is simply another name for added sugar? Added sugar is becoming increasingly difficult to recognize in ingredient lists, but knowing its existence and making a decision to avoid it, is important to longevity and health. Added sugar in the diet, especially at the levels Americans are currently consuming, is known to contribute to an increased risk for chronic disease – diabetes, heart disease, and obesity to name a few. It’s found in condiments, granola bars, cereals, breads, beverages, pastries, sweets, and more. It’s in so many of the foods we commonly eat that the average American now eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. The good news? Added sugars can be easily identified and reduced.
To start, you must recognize the difference between added sugar and natural sugar. Added sugar is the sugar added to a food during processing. Think sugar in candies and cookies. Similar to salt or coloring, it is a part of the processing of the particular food. Natural sugar is the sugar present in the food without processing. For example, fructose isn’t added to an orange or banana, but is found naturally in the fruit. Similarly, lactose isn’t added to milk or yogurt, but is found naturally in dairy. Where the added sugar comes in is when a fruit, for example, is sweetened by adding honey, sugar, or syrup, such as might happen with some fruit juice drinks or when yogurt is sweetened by the addition of syrup in fruit mix-ins. Another more common example of added sugar in a dairy product is chocolate syrup such as is found in chocolate milk.
The number one contributor of added sugar in the American diet is sugar-sweetened beverages. Consider that one can of soda has about 150 calories, most of which come from added sugar. That’s equivalent to 9 tsp of sugar (1 teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams sugar). Simply eliminating added sugars from the beverages you drink is one of the first steps in making a significant impact on the total amount of added sugars eaten per day. Other sources of added sugar in the American diet include candies, cookies, cakes, pies, and fruit drinks like fruit punch. Add to that the sugary cereals and quick breads along with ice cream and sweetened yogurt then you quickly see how a typical American diet can reach the 22 tsp mark.
Follow these steps to cut your added sugar intake to the recommended amount of 6 tsp per day for women and 9 tsp per day for men:
- Skip sugar-sweetened beverages and opt for water, sparkling water, or unsweetened coffee/tea.
- Limit cakes, cookies, pies, and pastries. Opt for dark chocolate covered fruit for a sweet treat instead.
- Avoid yogurts and yogurt drinks with added sugars such as those with fruit on the bottom. B’More Organic yogurt skyr is flavor-packed without using added sugar.
Allison is registered dietitian and whole-foods enthusiast. Her philosophy is based in the knowledge that foods are not eaten simply for sustenance, but are the connection to mental and physical health. She knows that the foods we eat, or don’t eat, can have a significant impact on well-being. With almost 10 years of experience, she combines food and nutrition knowledge with passion to provide realistic, sustainable solutions to a healthy lifestyle. You can find her sharing all things food on Instagram and Twitter @allisonknottrd or on her blog at www.allisonknott.com. Contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org