Do you REALLY know how much sugar you’re eating?
I bet you don’t.
For starters, how much is ok?
Both the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization agree we should not exceed the following in added sugars per day;
FYI a tsp of added sugar = 4.2g. So that’s 16.8g, 12.6g, 21g, 25.2g & 37.8g respectively.
Ok. Eating less than the stated recommendations doesn’t sound tough. I mean, who gobbles down 6 – 9 teaspoons of added sugar every day anyway?!
Apparently, we do.
To the tune of 152 lbs per year!!! HOLY COW!
That’s 27 teaspoons (113.4g) per day!
How does this happen?! We know the obvious high sugar stuff like cake, candy and soda but have you ever checked out the sugar in all the other foods we eat? Let’s look at some typical foods and see just how much added sugar they have.
The graphics below might surprise you but before we get into that we need to understand the difference between “natural” and “added” sugars.
Natural vs Added sugar and why it matters. Link
Natural sugars occur in dairy and plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. When we consume sugar in its natural form with all the fiber and dense nutrients ie; eating an apple, spinach, oatmeal or a glass of milk our bodies love it. Absorbing the good stuff and turning the sugar into energy.
Added sugars are taken from the above and concentrated (processed). This concentration of sugar with the elimination of the fiber and nutrients is extremely detrimental to our health.
Largely for these 2 reasons;
- The sugar is concentrated, giving a much larger dose than our bodies can handle without the fiber to help digest it properly. As a result, the body’s vital organs are overwhelmed, causing damage to the pancreas and liver as well as storing the excess as fat. Ever hear of the “Sugar Belly“?
- To make matters worse, with the excess sugar of processed foods we see higher bad fats and carbs as well, making it a triple whammy of unhealthy. Ie; High blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, cancer and more.
The sugar industry and politicians have done a great job keeping this information out of the public eye. It’s all about that dollar. Ie: Big money (Sugar Industry) burying research and paying off scientists to alter their findings. And does anyone trust the FDA anymore?
The evidence and information available regarding the dangers of sugar is overwhelming. Google “Sugar Health Studies” and you’ll get over 204 MILLION results! I could go on and on about how harmful sugar is and how highly addictive it is but that is not the focus of this article.
The goal here is to get you wondering about how much sugar you consume and give you the tools to figure it out.
Do what you want. Eat what you want. I’m still going to have a cookie or a piece of cake here and there but I’ll do so KNOWINGLY.
Live life on purpose.
If we’re going to understand our sugar intake we need to know the names by which sugar is added to our food. This list, while not exhaustive should help you know what to look for.
56 ways to spell sugar.
Basic Simple Sugars: Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, Sucrose
Solid or Granulated Sugars: Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Cane juice crystals, Cane sugar, Castor sugar, Coconut sugar, Confectioner’s sugar (aka, powdered sugar), Corn syrup solids, Crystalline fructose Date sugar, Demerara sugar, Dextrin, Diastatic malt, Ethyl maltol, Florida crystals, Golden sugar, Glucose syrup solids, Grape sugar, Icing sugar, Maltodextrin, Muscovado sugar, Panela sugar, Raw sugar, Sugar (granulated or table), Sucanat, Turbinado sugar, Yellow sugar
Liquid or Syrup Sugars: Agave Nectar/Syrup, Barley malt, Blackstrap molasses, Brown rice syrup, Buttered sugar/buttercream, Caramel, Carob syrup, Corn syrup, Evaporated cane juice, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Golden syrup, High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Honey, Invert sugar, Malt syrup, Maple syrup, Molasses, Rice syrup, Refiner’s syrup, Sorghum syrup, Treacle
Now we know how much ‘added’ sugar is OK for our bodies and it’s looking like we should all check to see what our personal intake is.
Don’t assume you already ‘eat healthy’.
I had a conversation recently with a friend at the gym. She mentioned being frustrated at not meeting her weight loss goals in spite of eating healthy and working out regularly. I asked her if she had a clear idea of what her sugar intake was. She felt she ate pretty healthy so it shouldn’t be high. I challenged her and her husband to look at all the labels of the things they ate regularly over the next week to see what their sugar consumption actually was.
Seeing them the next night they shared their shock at finding they’d gone over the recommended daily amount of added sugar before 7:00 a.m. We’ve yet to extend this challenge to someone that wasn’t surprised to find how much sugar they were actually consuming each day. Most of us don’t realize how much sugar and substitutes are dominant in foods across the board.
Also, notice the difference in calories and sugar once food is dehydrated (processed)! Now imagine processing it further into powder or liquid form. It grows exponentially. This is what makes added sugars so dangerous. We’re getting way more than our bodies can handle and without the fiber and nutrients to control it. Instagram Post
This might not be big news but the vast majority of sugar Americans consume is liquid. It’s in our drinks y’all!
Have you ever checked the sugar in your coffee drink?
There is one last bit of information needed to understand these labels.
What are they and how do they work?
They are purely chemical. We have 1 little receptor on our tongue that tells our brain something is sweet. (FYI, there’s more than 30 that read bitterness). This artificial stimuli is designed to trigger that sweet receptor and does so in dramatic fashion. Their level of sweet far exceeds that of natural sugars causing us to lose our sensitivity to the natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables.
At first it looked like we wouldn’t have to worry about the problems associated with sugar. Turns out that’s not necessarily true. In some cases they are worse. Studies also show when we stimulate the sweet receptor without the fiber and nutrients in whole foods, our bodies crave more food. It increases our appetite and our craving for something sweet. So, while you’re drinking that diet soda in an effort to lose weight you will crave that candy bar even more. And lets not forget the crappy fats and carbs that typically come with the ‘artificial sweeteners’.
BUT WAIT, there’s more.
It’s Artificial sweetener was discovered by a couple guys trying to create a better insecticide?! One doctor told the other to “test” the product and the other thought he said “taste” it. SO HE DID! It tasted sweet and he didn’t die so… Sucralose was born. In 2016 the Ctr of Science downgraded Sucralose from caution to avoid.
Artificial Sweeteners approved by the FDA are; Sucralose, Aspartame, Neotame, Advantame, Saccharine and Acesulfame Potassium (Ace K). (6 more ways to spell sugar)
So what are we saying here? Nothing sweet in our lives?!
Not necessarily. Just be aware and eat it in moderation. If you’re interested this link gives you the worst to best ways to sweeten your food. I can tell you from experience the more you get away from the super sweet stuff the better you are able to enjoy the natural flavors in whole foods.
Alright. Let’s talk about those labels that make up the nutritional information and ingredient list? With regard to sugar there are 3 things to look for.
- Look for the total grams of sugars listed on the label. Currently the FDA does not require a separate line item for ‘added sugar’ vs ‘natural sugar’. That is in the works and hopefully coming soon.
- There are many names for natural and processed sugars and their grams will be listed on the label.
- Artificial sweeteners will not be measured as sugars on the label. They will be in the ingredients list however, so always check that list; Sucralose, Aspartame, Neotame, Advantame, Saccharine and Acesulfame Potassium (Ace K).
Lets look at a couple labels and see what we can learn.
For those that are big coke fans you might find these labels interesting. Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero. What’s the difference?
Not much. Carbonated water is the first ingredient on all 3. After that regular coke has high fructose corn syrup as the next ingredient which is a whopping 39g of sugar per can!
Diet Coke and Coke Zero both advertise no sugar and no calories. The only difference is the mixture of the artificial sweeteners giving them a different flavor.
From the Coke label its easy to see how this product is bad for us with 39g of sugar. The Diet Coke and Coke Zero however look like they might be alright with Zero calories and zero sugar until you look at the actual ingredients and see the artificial sweeteners we talked about previously. These are as detrimental to our health as the over consumption of sugar.
There’s more to it than checking the “sugar grams” on the label. In other words we need to pay attention to the processed and artificial sweeteners also. KNOW what the ingredients and sugar levels are in the foods you’ve been eating then decide which foods you’re OK with and which you might want to replace or eliminate.
Add up the sugar in everything you eat for 2 days and post your findings to the comments below. How much sugar were you consuming? What might you adjust, if anything?
Fear not my friends. Our next blog will have ideas for kicking the sugar habit and trading out some of those sugary treats for something more healthy. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile jump in on the next Habitap challenge. We look at those labels and with the support and findings of others in the challenge you’ll quickly learn to understand what all those ingredients are, if they are good or not and find some great alternatives. How the challenge works.