Heart Association Says Scale Back the Sweet Tooth
Do you have any idea how much added sugar you can safely eat in a day?
The American Heart Association's new statement on the matter, published yesterday in AHA's journal Circulation, may surprise many: While the average American is accustomed to ingesting more than 22 teaspoons -- totaling 350 calories -- of "added" sugar per day, we really shouldn't allow ourselves more than about 10 teaspoons, for a total of 150 calories. (That's for men; women should restrict themselves to no more than 6 teaspoons, for about 100 calories.)
Excess sugar consumption is thought to be a major contributor to Americans' increasing obesity; it's also associated with increased risk of high blood pressure and other conditions that hike the risk of heart disease and stroke.
"Added" sugars encompass those in regular sodas, fruit drinks, candy, baked goods and sweetened dairy products -- anything that's made to taste sweet by adding caloric sweeteners such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The term does not include foods that are naturally sweet, such as fruit.
This is an area where menu labeling at chain and fast-food restaurants could really come in handy. It's very hard to know exactly how much added sugar you consume, because sugar shows up in all kinds of packaged and processed foods that don't necessarily taste all that sweet such as salad dressing and spaghetti sauce. Current Nutrition Facts panels on packaged foods list sugar content in grams; a gram of sugar has about 4 calories; a teaspoon of sugar contains around 4 grams.
I've been trying, mostly successfully, to limit sweets in my diet for months now, just because sugar adds nothing but empty calories to my life. Despite a few setbacks, I've found that once I adjusted to not eating candy, baked goods, and lots of ice cream, I don't crave those things the way I once did. (This, from someone who once enjoyed eating marshmallows straight out of the bag!) Which is not to say that I don't indulge now and then. But my indulgences tend to be planned in advance, and I make sure I relish every bite.
Do you struggle with sugar? Any tips or tricks for cutting back?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
August 26, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Nutrition and Fitness
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