Sugarcane was first grown and harvested in about the 8th century B.C. in India, and people have used sugar as food since. Prior to that, the common sweetener was honey. We have come to be so infatuated with the sweet stuff in America today that we consume it like never before – sometimes without really being aware of it.
We have modified it from the original form of sugarcane so that it appears in our modern food supply in the guise of corn syrup, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, maltodextrin, and several other types. No matter which form it takes, we generally refer to it all as sugar.
How did we come to incorporate so much sugar in our diet, and what is the price we’ve paid? The low fat diet trend in the early 1980’s launched when scientists discovered the bad LDL cholesterol in the 1970’s; hence, low fat diets were considered the healthy route. Food manufacturers catered to the new dietary requests by creating low fat versions of favorite foods. Because the new low fat foods lacked flavor, the food manufacturers compensated with extra sugar and salt for seasoning. Sugar intake was not a concern to populations who were not diabetic.
Our sweet tooth has remained sunk in, so incidences of serious diseases such as diabetes and heart disease have exploded in America. Metabolic syndrome has become a hot topic in health care as a result. It is estimated that 1 in 6 Americans have metabolic syndrome, which includes symptoms such as high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high abdominal fat, and excessive unhealthy blood cholesterol. Any of these conditions or combination of conditions can lead to the full-blown diseases common to so much of the western world if left untreated.
How much sugar should we limit ourselves to? A healthy amount of sugar consumption as prescribed by the World Health Organization is 50 gms of sugar per day or less for a 2000 calorie diet. Food labeling is deceptive, however. “Healthy” titles and descriptions hide the fact that certain foods are loaded with sugars.
The following foods listed below consume at least half of our sugar allotment for an entire day:
When cereals are marketed as whole grains, providing “X” number of your daily vitamins and minerals, you are encouraged to look the other way when it comes to the sugar packed into them. Granola is usually regarded as healthy, but most varieties have more sugar per serving than some sweetened cereals. With 19 grams of added sugar in 1 cup compared to sweetened cereals like Cocoa Puffs that have 13 grams of sugar per ¾ cup, you aren’t saving your sugar budget to choose the granola. Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart, Original Antioxidant delivers 14 grams of sugar per 1 cup serving.
2. Dressings and sauces
Sweeter varieties of BBQ sauce can contain as much as 8 grams of added sugar in a 1 oz. serving. Meats have beneficial protein, but once you slather on the BBQ sauce, you may as well forego dessert if you are trying to restrict sugar intake. Salad dressings are another wolf in sheep’s clothing to your diet. We usually think of salad as a health food, but some fat free dressings are “dressed up” with extra sugar to compensate for the flavor lost when the fat is omitted. Fruity vinaigrettes also have added sugar that you wouldn’t suspect.
3. Canned soups
Soup is good for you, right? Select carefully! Some soups contain as much sugar as a dessert, especially a lot of the tomato varieties. This is because the manufacturers want to bring out the sweetness in tomatoes by adding more sugar. Mur Glen Organic Tomato Bisque contains 13 grams of sugar per 1 cup serving, with two servings in one 14.4 oz. can.
4. Yogurt products
Fruit flavored yogurt cups can have as much sugar as two Little Debbie Swiss Rolls! The Lemon Burst variety by Yoplait has 31 grams of sugar per 6 oz. cup. The snack cakes contain 27 grams of sugar. Perhaps the biggest downfall to sweetened yogurt is that the sugar kills off the beneficial acidophilus naturally present in cultured yogurt. The protein found in the yogurt hardly offsets the high amount of sugar. You would almost be just as well off with the snack cakes!
5. Protein bars
Targeting young athletes, these post-workout treats are considered part of the formula for getting jacked by many. The truth is some protein bars have astounding amounts of sugar. Unless they are sugar-free, they can have at least 15 grams or more of added sugar per bar. The deceptively named Amazing Grass Green Superfood Berry Whole Foods Energy Bar sounds like the lesser of two evils, but the 60 gram bar will deduct 26 grams of sugar from your budget compared to 27 grams in a 57 gram Snickers.
As with anything else, use sugar in moderation. Make it a point to monitor how many grams you consume daily. Use a good application or a paper journal to help you track your dietary habits. Read food labels and choose wisely to care for your health. Life will be sweeter if you do!