As more people are joining the health and fitness bandwagon, concerns about sugar are growing. According to Time Magazine, the typical American consumes more than 56 pounds of sugar each year. While everyone knows that sugary foods are bad for the teeth, too much sugar affects the body in many other ways. Research shows that high-sugar diets can raise risks for diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Food manufacturers make the problem worse by adding sugar to many common foods like bread, soups, sauces and condiments. Fortunately, seven tips for avoiding the dangers of sugar can help.
1. Don’t add sugar to food or beverages. Avoid adding sugar to foods and beverages like pancakes, cereal, coffee and tea. Instead of using sugary syrups, top pancakes with almond butter and bananas. Add fresh berries or dried fruits to cereals, and stir all-natural stevia into hot beverages.
2. Avoid hidden sugars. Recognizing sugar is the first step to reducing it in the diet. Ingredients like corn syrup, agave, molasses, malt sugar, honey, and brown sugar are all types of sweeteners that affect the body the same way as white table sugar. Reading the ingredient list on a product's label can tell you if it contains any of these hidden types of sugar.
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3. Beware of fat-free foods. If the goal is to limit the dangers of sugar, fat-free foods may not be the answer. When manufacturers remove fat from certain foods, they often remove taste as well. To compensate, many fat-free foods contain extra sugar, salt, flour and other thickeners. Make sure to read labels to determine sugar levels in fat-free foods.
4. Shop the rainbow. White makes a great color for decorating but not for the diet. White foods like potatoes, rice, bread and pasta are almost always higher in sugar and calories. Foods rich in color like bell peppers, berries, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash offer very little sugar but plenty of healthy phytochemicals, antioxidants and other nutrients.
5. Steer clear of ingredients ending in –ose. In addition to more obvious types of hidden sugars like honey and corn syrup, ingredients ending in –ose are also forms of sugar. These include glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, sucrose, maltose and xylose. Look for these ingredients on food labels.
6. Follow the law of four. A simple math problem helps people determine how much sugar (in teaspoons) they are about to consume per serving. For instance, if a serving of cereal contains 12 grams of sugar, divide the 12 by four to find that the serving contains three teaspoons of sugar.
7. Skip the fruit juice. In addition to removing all the fiber from fruit, juicing boosts sugar content. For instance, a 12-ounce glass of apple juice has more calories and nearly the same amount of sugar as a 12-ounce glass of cola.
Too much sugar in the daily diet raises risks for many types of disease. According to the World Health Organization, people who want to reduce the dangers of sugar should limit sugar calories to about 5 percent of their total daily calorie intake. Fortunately, by following the tips above, consumers can slash daily sugar consumption for better overall health.