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Simple sugars, commonly found in sweets and snack foods, give us “empty” calories, which means that although they may give us a short-lived energy boost, they mainly add calories to our diets that don’t give our bodies any additional nutrients or longer-lasting energy in return.
Additionally, empty calories your body doesn’t use may show up on your waistline. And the results of added sugars on our health may go beyond obesity.
Eating too much sugar has been linked to
For many people, it’s these hidden simple sugars that are the problem. Just where do sugars hide?
“Hidden” sugars lurk about in many of our favorite foods and drinks. A medium vanilla latte? It has around 35 grams of sugar. A medium “sweet tea” can log around 55 grams of sugar. A medium soda can hit you with about 85 grams of sugar. But there are also other hidden sources of sugar in less obvious foods as well such as, pasta sauce, gravy, condiments, flavored yogurts and even “healthy” cereals.
There are so many hidden, added sugars in our prepared foods that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says nutrition labels should show the amount of added sugars as a part of the recommended daily calorie intake.
The average American adult or child gets about 360 calories, or almost a quarter of one’s total recommended daily calories, from added sugar each day. Why so much sugar? Registered dietitian Judy Kolish says our American taste buds favor sweeter things more than people in many other countries. Even our baked goods are sweeter.
For the first time, Americans are being clearly told to limit added sugars. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 give a good look at what we are eating compared to what we should eat.
The new dietary guidelines recommend getting less than 10 percent of your calories per day from added sugars.
‘Added sugars’ are the key words here. Naturally occurring sugars, like those in fruit, are not included in the 10 percent. That’s about 12.5 teaspoons, 50 grams or about 193 calories of sugar a day.
Once someone gets a preference for a sweeter taste, it’s hard to change. But Kolish says you can change your taste to accept foods prepared with less sugar and that are in their whole form.
We can become more tuned in to how much sugar is in our food, she says. “Instead of always choosing sweet foods, choose foods that you enjoy and are well-prepared.”
Try plain Greek or Icelandic-style yogurt and adding low-fat granola, dried or fresh fruit to taste. You might be surprised at how your tastes can change to accept less sweet foods.
“When you stop to be in the moment and be mindful of what you are eating, you may even find that you dislike foods that are overly sweet,” she says.
Try these tips to curb your sweet tooth:
Need more tips on nutrition? These guidelines offer a look at our eating habits and changes for better health.
Originally published June 23, 2016; Revised 2019
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