picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr
Carbohydrates, overall calories, or fat content are often targeted as the culprits for weight gain, and while these can contribute to your waistline, sugar is often hidden in seemingly healthy foods. Refined sugar is stripped of all of its natural nutrients, which gives it no value in your diet. The result–an empty calorie that doesn’t leave you full, which makes it easy to pack on extra weight. Refined sugars can also impact your insulin levels, leading to diabetes, cause excessive inflammation which increases your risk for a number of diseases, and packs on belly fat which can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, as your sugar consumption increases, so does your risk of tooth decay.
Added sugar is everywhere, and sometimes, you just can’t get around it. Through being informed, you can keep your sugar intake in check through reading food labels, and keeping it natural–trying to keep most of your meals full of plant and lean animal proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The current recommendation for sugar intake is 5% of our daily caloric intake (ideally less). Right now the average American consumes about 10% of their daily calories in sugar (150-170 pounds of refined sugar per year!).
Avoiding regular intake of sweets, treats, candies, and soda are a given. Treat yourself once in awhile, but don’t consume these regularly. However, most of us still consume more sugar than we should, even when being mindful of soda and candy. Below are some hidden sources of sugar, in foods that most would consider “healthy.”
- Granola bars and cereal– Unfortunately the “sticky” substance holding granola bars together is usually sugar! The nuts and grains can often keep your hunger in check, but consider making your own so you can control the ingredients, or just stick with whole nuts.
- Yogurt– Most flavored yogurts contain up to 30 grams of sugar, many of them refined. This can rival a candy bar or piece of cake. Be selective about your yogurt based on sugar content, or choose a plain yogurt and add your own honey, maple syrup, or fresh fruit. An added bonus? You will save money too.
- Salad dressing and condiments- Ketchup is full of unnecessary sugar. Many packaged salad dressings are also loaded with sugar. Make your own, and read the labels on your store favorites.
- Canned fruit– These are often packaged in a sugary syrup. If you can’t get your hands on fresh fruit, look for fruit canned in water or fruit juice.
- Fruit juice– Most contain many grams of added refined sugar, to make up for the sweetness lost in processing the fruit juice to a concentrate.
- Dried fruit– A handful of dried fruit can set you back the amount of sugar in a candy bar. Check the ingredients in your favorite dried fruit and choose fresh when possible.
- White wine– Sweeter white wines can contain as much sugar as a fruit juice. Select a dryer white wine, stick with one glass, or choose red wine, which tends to be lower in sugar.
Remember– sugar can be addictive! The more you consume, the more your body wants. Artificial sweeteners are no better in terms of your health.