The average American consumes more than 60 pounds of sugar every year. This is a staggering amount. This statistic makes it easy to see why so many Americans struggle with obesity, diabetes and other weight related health issues. That’s why we’ve got helpful and realistic ways to cut back your sugar intake and start leading a healthier and more active lifestyle.
At 60 pounds of added sugar per year per person, this adds up to 19 teaspoons per day, or 300 extra calories in sugar alone. It’s important to note that these statistics cite added sugar, and not naturally occurring sugars in food. When you read the nutrition breakdown on a food package, under “Sugars” is both added sugar and naturally occurring sugar already present in the food. This is misleading, which is why it is important to read the label even more carefully. Added sugar, which is what we want to avoid when limiting our sugar intake, goes by many different names. Some of these include corn syrup, corn sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and any word ending in “ose” such as dextrose, glucose, lactose, fructose, sucrose and maltose. Avoid or at least limit your consumption of foods that contain these ingredients.
How Much is Too Much?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that less than half of your daily calories should be coming from added sugars. For women, this adds up to about 6 teaspoons, or 100 calories per day. For men, about 9 teaspoons or 150 calories of added sugar is within acceptable guidelines according to the AHA findings. The bottom line is that you want to slash that sugar from your diet.
Everything Has Sugar In It!
Well, yes and no. Naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, breads and other starches are not considered “added,” although certainly you want to eat a well-balanced diet with less processed foods and more whole and organic foods. Processed foods are the worst and contain the most added sugar of any food in our food supply. Just by avoiding processed foods, you will reduce most if not all added sugars which will translate into a healthier body, better moods, increased energy and improved focus. If you’re accustomed to eating a lot of added sugars, cutting them out can be a real challenge. According to the Mayo Clinic, sugar triggers the same pleasure center in the brain as cocaine and is just as addictive. This is why people crave sugar so intensely when they try to cut back. The best way to reduce your intake of added sugars is by doing it gradually. Start by replacing sugary foods with more natural alternatives and cut out things like soda or cappuccinos with extra whip if that’s your thing.
How Sugars Affect the Quality of Your Diet
People who consume large amounts of added sugar have also been found to be deficient in vital nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin A. These high-sugar diets are also very low in fiber which in a healthy diet is responsible for energy as well as maintaining a healthy weight. People who make these changes to their diets find that it is much easier to lose weight and keep it off long term. If an overweight person reduces their BMI to a healthy level of 24.9 or less are at much less risk of developing obesity related illnesses or health complications.
Kids and Sugar
Many foods that are marketed toward children contain an amazing amount of added sugar, including breakfast cereals, snack foods, sodas and fruit drinks. Food manufacturers are well aware that kids like things that are sweet, and parents who want to feed their children food they will actually eat, will buy these foods regardless of the sugar content. According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, nearly 1 in 3 American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese. Other studies have shown that this generation of young people will be the first to not live longer than their parents because of obesity related diseases and early death. This is certainly reason enough to start studying those food labels and be an educated consumer for the sake of our children and future generations.
In the United States, adults and children both consume far too much sugar and it is taking a toll on this nation’s health. The obesity epidemic is on the rise, despite efforts to educate consumers about the dangers of poor diet and inactive lifestyles. Many people say they can only afford the less expensive, processed foods because organic or whole foods are simply too expensive. Some of these costs can be offset by cooking more often at home rather than eating out, as well as learning to prepare healthier foods for yourself and for your family.