Sugar hides in many of our everyday foods, from baked goods to fruit juice. According to the American Heart Association, from 2001 to 2004, the average American consumed 22.2 teaspoons, or 355 calories, of sugar a day. In contrast, the recommended amount of added sugar is no more than 100 calories a day for women and 150 calories a day for men. Sugar adds calories without nutrients and has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and dental problems such as cavities and tooth decay. A study has even shown that our brains react to sugar like a drug. But what are the different kinds of sugar and what should we be avoiding?
Naturally occurring sugar is just what it sounds like: sugar naturally present in some foods. For example, fructose is the sugar naturally found in fruit while lactose is the sugar found in dairy products. Added sugars are sugars incorporated into food to improve taste, like the sugar you add to your cookie mix or the sugar in soda. Generally speaking, naturally occurring sugars are healthier than added sugars.
Sugar lurks in many of our common foods, including fruit juice, baked goods, and processed foods. Sugar is listed on nutrition labels under many different aliases, including sucrose, glucose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice, and agave nectar to name a few. And don't forget about the sugar in beverages, sodas especially contribute to American sugar consumption.
With sugar so prevalent in our diets, how can we avoid it? Natural meat and eggs are great sugar free options. Be sure to drink lots of water and avoid the sugars commonly found in sodas and sports drinks. Consider replacing sugar in your coffee or tea with a sugar substitute. While vegetables do have natural sugars, veggies like broccoli, asparagus, and mushrooms are nutrient rich, high fiber options important to our health. Fiber rich fruits and veggies might contain natural sugar, but fiber is key to slowing down the processing of sugar in our body, hence causing our insulin levels to not spike as much, which as a result helps keep our blood sugar at optimal levels.
With a little research and a lot of effort and perhaps will power, you can break the cycle to sugar addiction. Your body will absolutely thank you for it!