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Hidden Sugars

Many packaged items grab our attention with labels claiming "low-fat" or "heart healthy" and this sparks us to buy them as healthier alternatives.  What many people don't realize is in order to compensate for the less fat or salt, manufacturers have to in add something, and it is often sugar. Sugar doesn't contain fat, but it sure can make you that way!  Cutting sugar intake is one of the first things people do when trying to lose weight. According the the American Heart Association, American adults consume an average of 22.2 teaspoons of sugar a day. To put this in perspective, the recommended amount is 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 for men. Processed foods and restaurant foods are major culprits of the dramatic intake of sugars.  We need to read the nutritional labels on the back of food items we buy, and not just go by the promotional labels on the front. Many of the "diet" meals in the freezer section are loaded with sugar. Some contain as much as 3 teaspoons of sugar in one serving size! Canned soups can also be loaded with sugar. Kid cereals are a big contributor in the high amounts of sugar in our children's diets. According to Consumer Reports, eleven of the popular children's cereals contain as much sugar per serving as a glazed doughnut from Dunkin Donuts, and at least 40% of their weight comes from sugar!

So, how much added sugar should our children consume in one day?  Preschoolers should not consume more than 4 teaspoons of added sugar a day (the average is 12 tsp), ages 4 to 8 no more than 3 teaspoons (avg. 21 tsp), and preteen and teens between 5 to 8 teaspoons (avg.34.3 tsp).

We all know too much sugar can cause obesity and tooth decay, but what other health risks are involved?  The American Heart Association has linked it to elevated blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and an increased risk of heart disease.  According to MSNBC, too much sugar can also damage the collagen and elastin in the skin, causing more wrinkles. Here's what Discovery Health has to say about it:

"Highly refined sugar, in the form of table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, is kryptonite to optimal health. Your energy, immune system, metabolism, hormones and inflammatory markers are all negatively affected. The overwhelming availability of this ingredient in the developed world has given rise to obesity and diabetes. With increased sugar intake, the signs of aging, weight gain, fatigue, bone loss, poor sleep, mental fatigue and depression escalate. Key nutrients, such as magnesium and calcium, can also be lost by consuming refined sugars."

Cutting sugar intake in our diets as well as the diets of our children is an important step toward better health, but as I mentioned above, there is sugar lurking in a multiple of foods, not just in desserts.  Reading nutritional labels can help us avoid these hidden sugars.

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