While a moderate amount of naturally occurring sugar is part of a healthy diet, consuming too much sugar can lead to poor health. Research suggests that over-consumption of sugar is directly related to obesity, in part because of the way our bodies digest and store carbohydrates such as sugar. Obesity is also one of many contributors to cardiovascular disease risk, the leading killer among U.S. women, and consuming added sugars — sweeteners that are added to processed food and drinks to enhance flavor — only further increases these risks.
The best way to steer clear of added sugars is to be informed and to understand how they differ from naturally occurring sugars, like those found in fruit. Check nutrition labels for ingredients such as corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, and glucose. The presence of ingredients like these means that more sugar was added to the product on top of any naturally occurring sugars already present in the food. If possible, try to avoid packaged and processed foods and drinks, and eat whole foods instead, or make snacks from scratch.
Recommended daily sugar intake values vary by age, weight, and activity, but a healthy, middle-aged woman should aim to limit all sugars to 50 to 55 grams (g) — or about 13 teaspoons — per day.
That might sound like a lot, but let’s take a look at how quickly sugars can add up:
|Cinnamon raisin bagel, 11 g sugar||Whole grain bagel, 5 g sugar|
|Cream cheese, 1 g sugar||Unsweetened peanut butter, 3 g sugar|
|Vanilla coffee creamer, 5 g sugar||Unsweetened almond milk, 0 g sugar|
|17 grams sugar||8 grams sugar|
Healthier Choices: Try a whole grain bagel, with about half as much sugar as cinnamon raisin, and top it with natural, unsweetened peanut butter. While peanut butter may be higher in calories and naturally occurring sugars per serving than cream cheese, it contains less fat and more protein and fiber that are better for filling you up and fueling your morning. If black coffee is not for you, try using unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead of a sugary creamer.
Tomato soup, bowl, 14 g
Vegetable broth soup, bowl,
7 g sugar
Salad with fruity
vinaigrette, 23 g sugar
Salad with herbal vinaigrette,
12 g sugar
Fresh lemonade, 43 g sugar
Water, 0 g sugar
80 grams sugar
19 grams sugar
Healthier Choices: Creamy soups and bisques are usually high in calories, and more likely to be high in sugars. Swapping a creamy soup for a clear broth-based soup with vegetables or beans could cut up to 50 percent of sugar per serving. Salad is a great healthy choice, but the wrong dressing will sneak in some extra sugar where you least expect it. Could you imagine spooning nearly 6 teaspoons of sugar over your plate of leafy greens? Savory, herbal vinaigrettes tend to have little to no added sugars — just make sure you stick to the serving size. The real danger above is the lemonade, with about 11 teaspoons of sugar alone! Water is the best bet for hydration, but unsweetened iced tea is a good choice too.
Fruit on the bottom yogurt, 25 g sugar
Hummus and peppers, 12 g sugar
Frozen mocha coffee, small, 42 g sugar
Hot tea, 0 g sugar
67 grams sugar
12 grams sugar
Healthier Choices: Switching from a sweet snack to savory snack is a good way to stick to your recommended daily amount of sugar. For example, fresh yellow pepper strips, high in restorative Vitamin C and digestion-aiding Niacin, pair well with hummus. But if you’re craving a sweet treat, a handful of fresh berries contain only naturally occurring sugars and are high in satisfying fiber. If you need a refreshing drink option other than water, hot tea is a naturally sugar-free beverage that also happens to be packed with beneficial antioxidants.
Orange glazed sweet potatoes, 33 g sugar
Baked sweet potato, 6 g sugar
Barbeque chicken with sauce, 17 g sugar
Dry rub barbecue chicken, 0 g sugar
Peas, 6 g sugar
Peas, 6 g sugar
56 grams sugar
12 grams sugar
Healthier Choices: Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A, B-6, and fiber — and with 6 grams of naturally occurring sugar they are sweet enough on their own. Skip the hassle of an orange glaze and simply bake your sweet potatoes with a dash of cinnamon for spice. Did you know you could get the same smoky seasoning of barbeque sauce and none of the sugar by using a dry rub on chicken? Mix equal parts smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder and sprinkle on chicken before cooking as you normally would. As for the peas… they sound delicious!
Original Daily Total: 220 grams of sugar, or 55 teaspoons!
Healthier Choices: 51 grams of sugar — the “sweet” spot.
The information provided here may help you make more informed choices. However, it is not a substitute for an individualized nutrition plan, medical opinion, or diagnosis. You should always consult with your personal physician to make decisions about your diet and nutrition.
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