Whether you are trying to lose your weight or have fear of gaining weight the first thing you would likely be to cut out from your diet is Sugar. For, we all are acquainted with scary headlines calling sugar toxic and pointing to it as the source of all our health woes. But in reality things are far more complex.
Sugar in large quantities is, in fact, a big threat to your health. For years, experts have been saying that eating too much of any food can up your diabetes risk because overeating leads to obesity, which is the real culprit behind increase rates of the disease. But recent research suggests that the sweet stuff may have a more direct impact: For every additional 150 calories of added sugar downed per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes rose by 1 percent, even after controlling for obesity, physical activity and calories from other foods, according to a large study looking at international data. When it comes to heart health, excess sugar is also suspect.
Sugar is hiding in many surprising products, such as oatmeal and peanut butter, and confusing food labels make it hard to know how much of it you’re getting. So what’s a girl to do?
Before you swear not to eat ice cream to strawberries, keep the following in mind to satisfying your sweet tooth in the safest way possible.
It’s important to know the difference between the two main types of sugar.
Naturally occurring sugar is found in whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables and dairy products. These foods tend to be better for you because they deliver fiber (in the case of produce), as well as protein and calcium (in dairy) and other important vitamins and minerals.
Added sugars are anything sweet put into a food for flavor, from the sugar in store-bought ketchup to the honey you spoon into your tea. These sugars are concentrated and mostly devoid of nutrients. Although honey, maple syrup and the like have some healthful antioxidants and minerals, they still pack heavy doses of sweetener per spoonful. This means you get a lot of pure sugar—and calories—in a small portion, making it easy to go overboard and cause big problems. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), increases in sugar intake over the past four decades parallel our expanding waistlines, and studies have connected added sugar, not the naturally occurring kind, to heart disease and diabetes.
A lot of packaged foods contain both naturally occurring and added sugars. But the Nutrition Facts label lumps both kinds together, giving you one combined total. Last year, the FDA proposed separating the two to make it clearer how much of each type you’re getting, but until those changes take effect, the easiest way to tell if sugar has been added is to scan the actual ingredients list. If you see sugar grams but no sweeteners listed, then none were added.
According to the AHA, women should have no more than 100 calories of added sugar per day (about 6 teaspoons). Yet the average woman gets 18 teaspoons a day! Most of our added sugar comes from sweetened drinks and packaged foods, and the Nutrition Facts label lists sugar in grams, not calories or teaspoons, so it’s easy to lose track. Fortunately, there’s a simple formula for counting up sugar from any source: Just remember that 1 teaspoon equals about 4 grams of added sugar. So if you add a teaspoon to your morning joe and later have a chocolate protein bar with 12 grams (3 teaspoons) of sugar, you have 2 teaspoons (8 grams) left for the day.
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