Rcently, researchers who analyzed 71 studies on free sugars (sugars added by manufacturers, cooks, or consumers, plus natural sugars from honey, syrup and fruit juice) found that sugar is linked to weight gain.
Cutting back on sugar to lose weight should be a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done.
First of all, sugar is an ingredient in almost every food on the grocery store shelves from ketchup to Kool Aid.
Cutting back doesn’t mean eliminating all sugars from your diet, however.
The first thing to do is find out how much sugar is in the processed foods you bring home from the grocery store by reading the food label.
The sugar listed on the label is a combination of the naturally-occurring sugar and the added sugar. To find added sugars in food look for ingredients that end in ‘-ose’ in the list of ingredients. Examples include sucrose, fructose, and dextrose. Other sugars commonly used in foods include honey, brown sugar, molasses, evaporated cane juice, agave syrup, fruit juice concentrate and high fructose corn syrup.
If these sources of sugars don’t appear in the ingredient list, the sugar is naturally occurring. The difference between the two is that naturally-occurring sugars are found in foods that contribute vitamins, minerals and fiber to the diet while added sugars, for the most part, contribute empty calories.
To find out how much added sugar is in a product, look at the label where it says “total sugars” and divide the number of grams by four. That’s the number of teaspoons of sugar you are ingesting.
The next time you reach for a regular can od pop, do this exercise. You’ll discover that one 12 ounce can contains 12 teaspoons of sugar, the equivalent of ¼ cup.
The recommended limits of sugar intake for adult women is 5 teaspoons per day; for adult men, it’s 9 teaspoons daily; for children, it’s 3 teaspoons a day. Reach for water instead!
In addition to cutting back on added sugar in processed foods, here are some other ways to cut back on sugar:
• Don’t add sugar to foods. The biggest culprits are cereal, coffee, and tea. Try ‘stepping down’ the amount of sugar you use to allow your taste buds to adjust. Cut one teaspoon down to a half teaspoon, down to a quarter teaspoon, down to no sugar at all.
• Be creative with using fruit’s natural sweetness to satisfy your sweet tooth. Slice a banana on a peanut butter sandwich instead of using jelly. Top toast, waffles or pancakes with applesauce that has been warmed in the microwave.
• Reduce the sugar called for in baking. Sugar can often be reduced by one-third without compromising the taste or texture. Cutting back on sugar works best in quick breads, cakes and muffins. Balance the flavor by adding cinnamon or extra vanilla.
• So what about sugar substitutes? Research shows that artificial sweeteners very likely increase cravings for sugar. You might find it easier to cut back on sugar when you also cut back on the use of sugar substitutes.
The bottom line is that there are many reasons to start paying attention to the sugar in your diet. When you start noticing how much sugar you consume each, day you may be surprised.
Taking small consistent steps to do something about it is the key to improved health.