In our modern society, it is increasingly common to hear about people choosing to follow diets which prescribe the elimination of almost any food source you can think of: meat, fat, fruit, dairy, and gluten to name just a few. While the efficacy and safety of these diets are certainly debated, there is one calorie source that most nutritionists agree Americans can do with less of: added sugar.
Sugar is found naturally in foods like cheese and fruit which have overall health benefits like protein, calcium or vitamins, but scientists at the Harvard Public School of Health agree that the human body does not need get any benefit from added sugar. While sugar does provide carbohydrates, there are alternate carbohydrate sources, such as oatmeal, that provide actual nutrition.
When we think of added sugar, often, the first things that come to mind are sodas and breakfast cereals. Upon closer inspection however, the 21st century American diet includes staggering amounts of added sugar in foods you wouldn’t immediately think contained sugar.
For example, jarred tomato sauce, a staple in the kitchen for pasta dinners, can contain as much as 10 grams of sugar per ½ cup serving, as noted by ABC News. Marinade sauces, like a teriyaki sauce, can also contain significant sugar amounts compared to its serving size. La Choy Teriyaki and Marinade Sauce is listed in ABC News’ article as containing two whole teaspoons of sugar in just one tablespoon of sauce. That means 2/3 of the sauce is sugar!
We all know to look at the nutrition label to see what is in our food, but a quick scan for the word “sugar” in the ingredients label isn’t enough. Added sugars can go under our radar, as there is a long list of alternate names for it. Some of the “aliases” the American Heart Association lists for sugar on its website are:
Another common way of listing sugar sources on the nutrition label is identifying the sugar molecules the product contains. These typically end in “-ose,” such as dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose and sucrose. All these terms are simply other forms of sugar that have been added to your food.
Taking a look at your current diet can help you get an idea of how much sugar you are currently consuming. While most people are eating too much sugar, before making any major dietary adjustments, you will want to speak with your doctor or a certified nutritionist, especially if you are diabetic or have any other major medical conditions.
When reducing your added sugar intake, you can take steps to make the transition easier. If you love pasta sauce, make your own so that you are in control of the amount of sugar you put in your sauce. The sauce freezes well so you can make it in big batches and portion it out for your spaghetti nights. If you have a sweet tooth for goodies like cookies and cakes, experiment with adding fruit or unsweetened chocolate to have a less sweet but still powerful flavor.
Taking care of your nutrition now can help you leave a healthier and longer life in the future.