The Devil Inside: Hidden Sugars - The Daily Intake of Sugar
How's that for a dramatic title? It is kind of indicative of the way we treat sugars these days so before I disparage sugar it's important that I mention that sugar, like everything else, is OK in moderation. Who's being moderate though? the average American consumes around 156lbs of sugar a year, that's double what health experts recommend. The recommended daily intake of sugar for someone eating around 1800 calories a day is 31 grams, that's seven teaspoons…it's also one, ONE can of pop.
Remember the part above about moderation? If one can of pop hits your RDA for sugar, you just won't have more than one can of pop, right? wrong, you've got aonther problem…hidden sugars.
First let's talk about the name, "a sugar by any other name tastes as sweet". Here are some other names for sugars you need to watch for:
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- Confectioner's sugar
- Crystallized cane juice
- Evaporated cane juice
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Maltodextrin (or dextrin)
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Sucrose (table sugar)
- Turbinado sugar
Even more sneaky are the "ols" which are basically sugar alcohols. A lot of chewing gums and breath mints have these sugars in them. You may have seen these ingredients listed for these and other products.
Sometimes we don't always read the label on things that aren't really sweet because we don't think they have any sugar…not true. Diabetics in particular have to be really good at watching for hidden sugars, but there's no reason why you shouldn't be too. Here are some foods with surprising amounts of sugar…
Spaghetti sauce. A half cup of store-bought sauce can contain as many as three teaspoons of corn syrup or sugar. While some of the naturally occurring sugar in tomatoes and other vegetables will show up on the nutrition label, most of the sugar is added. Look for brands that don’t include sugar or its aliases or make your own from fresh or canned tomatoes.
Ketchup. Ketchup can be 20 percent sugar or more. Not to mention that you’ll get 7 percent of your daily sodium allowance in one tablespoon. Look for low-salt, no-sugar brands, or make your own, using pureed carrots to add flavor and texture to the tomatoes.
Reduced-fat cookies. Most brands of cookies now offer a reduced-fat version of their product. Nabisco even offers its own line of low-fat treats, Snackwells. But while you’re patting yourself on the back for choosing the low-fat option, check the label. The sneaky food manufacturers did take out the fat, but they replaced it with, you guessed it, sugar. Many times, the reduced-fat cookie is only slightly less caloric than the one you want to eat. And because there’s no fat to make you feel full, you’ll be tempted to eat more “guilt-free” cookies. And just because there’s less fat, it doesn’t mean you’ll be less fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat. Calories make you fat.
Low-fat salad dressing. Like the cookies, manufacturers have taken the fat out of the dressing, but they’ve added extra salt and sugar to make up for it. Check the label to make sure you’re not replacing heart-healthy olive oil with diabetes-causing sugar-because that’s not really a “healthy choice.” Your best bet? Make your own vinaigrettes using a small amount of olive oil, a tasty gourmet vinegar or fresh lemon juice, and some fresh herbs.
Bread. Most processed breads, especially white hamburger and hot dog buns, can contain a good bit of sugar or corn syrup. That’s what gives them the golden-brown crust. As always, check the ingredient label, and consider getting your bread at a real bakery or a farmers’ market-it’s the best idea since, well, you know.
Fast food. Needless to say, fast food is generally not good for you. But even if you’re staying away from the sodas and the shakes, everything from the burgers to the fries to the salads is a potential place to hide sugar. Check out the ingredients carefully at your favorite restaurant. You may be getting more than you bargained for.
Yeah, I know, it's a little scary (like my title) but don't let it bug you too much, if you pay attention, and know what to watch for, you'll have no trouble keeping tabs on your daily intake of sugar.