SUGAR – it seems to be in everything we eat!!! But it is not always easy to spot because it goes by many different names and is hidden in many of the foods we eat every day. Ketchup, protein bars, cereal, salad dressing, low-fat yogurt, and the list goes on of the various kinds of foods with hidden added sugars. If you aren’t reading your food labels carefully, chances are you’re ingesting a heckuva lot more than the recommended daily maximum.
According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugar you should eat in a day is 38 grams for MEN and 25 grams for WOMEN, yet the average American consumes 82 grams per day!
Some common foods & drinks with sugar
- 12oz can of soda (on average): 40 GRAMS
- 20oz Gatorade: 35 GRAMS
- Heinz Ketchup: 4 GRAMS per Tablespoon
- 12oz Yogurt: 12-24 GRAMS
- Cereal: 20 GRAMS per serving
- Prego Spaghetti Sauce: 11 GRAMS per serving
Some common names/aliases of added sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
One reason it’s hard to spot hidden sugars is because they can be listed under various aliases such as sucrose, dextrose, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, dates, honey, agave, etc. In the end, sugar is sugar and impacts the body in the same way. To make matters worse, eating sugary junk foods has been said to be as addictive as cocaine. This can make cutting out sugar a major challenge, but the rewards are definitely worth it.
If you’ve ever done a sugar detox or eaten a paleo diet, you may have experienced some of the benefits of taking sugar out of your life! Maybe that detox felt so good you’re still going strong and reaping the benefits of a no-sugar-added lifestyle. But if you’re like me, and seem to have an ever-present sweet tooth, and need some extra convincing, read the plethora of benefits below to help you kick the sugar addiction for good! Or at least to cut down, dramatically, your daily sugar consumption!!!
A diet high in refined sugars and processed carbs shows reduced levels of the hormone BDNF. BDNF is responsible for helping form new memories and remembering old ones. Lower BDNF can lead to depression and has also been linked to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. If you love your brain, make sure to fuel it with healthy fats and a well-balanced diet (free of added sugars, of course)!
I mentioned the addictive properties of sugar above, which is one of the major dangers of sugar consumption as well as how it over inflates our appetite. The added sugars in junk foods cause dopamine spikes (the hormone linked to reward) in your brain enticing you to eat more and more. Have you ever bought a package of cookies intending to only eat one that night and then realize the whole package is gone? Cutting out snacks high in added sugars will help you regain control of your appetite, know when you’re full, and make healthier food choices overall.
Eating excess sugar can lead to inflammation throughout the body as well as increasing glycation. Glycation is the irreversible bonding of glucose to proteins and lipids, which leads to the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are aptly named because they contribute to the aging of your skin by decreasing collagen and elasticity. This process, combined with inflammation, can lead to breakouts and premature wrinkles on your skin. So cut out the added sugar to improve your skin health and look younger!
Sugary foods typically have a high glycemic index (GI), meaning they quickly raise your blood sugar and lead to a “crash” later on. These energy highs and lows from sugar also make you crave additional sugar – a vicious cycle!!! Staying away from sugary, high GI foods will allow your energy levels to remain stable throughout the day so you can survive on just the one XL cup of coffee in the morning :) Remember to reach for high fiber and protein-rich foods throughout the day to help keep energy up.
Better Health Markers
Diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, pancreatic cancer, and other ailments, though not completely conclusive, have all been linked to the spike in insulin caused by sugar consumption. Insulin plays a major role as a storage hormone in the body and when we can’t produce it in the right amounts, we end up with a whole host of health issues and risk for these serious diseases. Maintaining a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods will help keep you out of the doctor’s office.
No one said it would be easy, but your body will thank you when you kick the sugar habit! So please be extra vigilant when choosing your groceries by looking at the label.
Caroline Ofenstein, CFL1, Pn1
Genius Foods by Max Lugavere