Sugar is a delicious component of foods and desserts that make them more palatable and make those foods even more enticing. Some of us may even say we have a “sweet tooth” and often find ourselves craving sweets often. But when it comes to sugar in our food choices, we want to make sure we aren’t eating too much. Sugar can be found in several food forms including the classic white table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, and maple syrup.
However, there are other forms of sugar that are less recognizable by names such as high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, dextrose, and most other ingredients ending in -ose. So while we want to limit the intake of sugar in forms we recognize, we also want to make sure we are searching nutrient facts labels for these hidden forms of sugar as well.
The American Heart Association recommends that we eat no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar a day for women, and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day for men. Added sugar is considered any form of sweetener (including natural forms such as honey, maple syrup, etc) that is added to food and not naturally occurring in the food itself. A naturally occurring sugar source would be lactose in dairy products or fructose in fruit. These naturally occurring sugars do not count towards your daily sugar intake allowance.
But as a frame of reference, one can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar! You can see how quickly our daily sugar allowance would add up if we added honey to oatmeal, had some packaged snacks with added sugar, a soda with lunch, and dessert after dinner. If we continually consume too much sugar in our diets, risk factors for several diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and potentially even cancer can increase. Keeping our added sugar intake under the recommended amounts can help us avoid these complications and ensure we’re eating a balanced and overall healthy diet.
There are also places that sugar may be hiding in your food that you are unaware of. These would mostly be packaged foods that you buy. Peanut butter often contains added oils and sugar that isn’t necessary. Try switching to a “natural” version, or even a fresh round version of peanut butter that only contains the ground peanuts itself without the added sugar and oil!
Other products like packaged cereal, juice drinks that are not 100% juice, baked goods, flavored yogurt, some premixed spice blends, protein or granola bars, and soda are also other foods that where you may find hidden sugar you were unaware of. Food companies are now required to list “added sugar” on the nutrient facts label of all of their foods. This will differentiate between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar on the label. On the nutrient facts label, you can see the “added sugar” section to see how much each food contains. As a way to try to avoid going over the recommended amount of sugar each day, try to limit the packaged foods you buy than contain added sugar, switch to sparkling water instead of soda, and try to decrease the amount of sweetener you’re adding into foods yourself each day.
Curbing a sweet tooth and lowering sugar intake can be difficult. Each of us has food preferences. Some individuals do not prefer sweet and instead love salty items. Others of us love sweet things. This is not necessarily a “sugar addiction”, it’s just a food preference. But those with a sweet preference may need to watch their sugar intake and cravings more closely. While making the swaps for packaged items with no or less sugar, adding less into food, and overall being more conscious can be beneficial, you may still find yourself wanting a sweet treat. When trying to curb a sweet tooth craving, try reaching for sweet items that have less sugar such as dark chocolate, lightly sweetened greek yogurt, fruit, 100% fruit juice popsicles, or trail mix. It’s important to be conscious of your overall sugar intake and make changes where you can. And over time with less frequent sugar intake, your taste buds actually develop a heightened awareness for sweetness and find foods such as fruit to satisfy that sweet craving!
Through our medical weight loss program in partnership with Enara Health, your medical weight loss care team can help you overcome your sugar cravings through a comprehensive nutritional plan geared to not only help you lose weight but to also help you stay healthy. Learn more about Enara @ WellHealth by visiting http://weightloss.wellhealthdfw.com