Do you know how much sugar you’re consuming?
The recommended daily intake of sugar is 25 grams (6 tsp) for women and 38 grams (9 tsp) for men. However, the average American consumes 82 grams (19.5 tsp) a day. This translates to an extra 66 pounds of sugar consumed each year, per person.
As citizens, we eat more sugar than we know. There are high amounts of sugar hidden in everyday foods, some of which we have even labeled “healthy.” These visuals show just how much sugar is in some of your favorite foods. (Note: each sugar cube contains 4.2 grams of sugar)
So, what happens when you eat too much sugar? Excessive sugar consumption can lead to various health complications such as:
- Insatiable Hunger
- Weight Gain
- Insulin Resistance
- Liver Failure
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Kidney Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Cognitive decline
- Nutritional deficiencies
The United States leads developed nations in Diabetes prevalence
- Type 2 diabetes is believed to be a result of both lifestyle and genetics, but the exact cause is unknown
- However, risk factors have appeared to include excess body fat, high blood pressure or cholesterol, having a close family member with the condition, a history of gestational diabetes, and higher age.
- As obesity has become more prevalent over the past few decades, so too has the rate of type 2 diabetes. In 2013, more than 1 in 3 people in the U.S. were considered to have obesity, and over 2 in 3 were either overweight or had obesity.
- In 1995, obesity affected 15.3 percent of Americans, and in 2008, the figure was 25.6 percent. From 1998 to 2008, the incidence of diabetes increased by 90 percent.
So, why is Diabetes so serious?
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States
- The ADA’s report states that more Americans die from Diabetes every year than from AIDS and Breast Cancer combined.
- According to the CDC, 79,353 deaths occur each year due to diabetes. The number of fatalities related to diabetes may be underreported due to the many people who are living undiagnosed (28% of people are undiagnosed).
- Adults with diabetes are significantly more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.
- More than a quarter of all Americans with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss and blindness.
- Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans begin treatment for kidney failure due to diabetes. Diabetes accounts for 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure.
- Each year, diabetes causes about 73,000 lower limb amputations, which accounts for 60 percent of all lower limb amputations (not including amputations due to trauma).
- Because of its high prevalence and link to numerous health problems, diabetes has a significant impact on healthcare costs.
- The productivity loss for reduced performance at work due to diabetes in 2012 was 113 million days, or $20.8 billion, according to the ADA.
- Diabetes cost the U.S. $245 billion in 2012. But, the ADA believes this number may be lower than the actual cost because it does not include:
- the millions of people who have diabetes but are undiagnosed
- the cost for prevention programs for people with diabetes, which are not counted under standard medical costs
- over-the-counter medications for eye and dental problems, which are more common in people with diabetes.
- administrative costs for insurance claims
- the cost of reduced quality of life, pain and suffering, lost productivity of family members, and other factors that cannot be measured directly
- Because diabetes affects various parts of the body, the medical costs span different areas of specialty. The ADA report that:
- 30 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for circulation problems that reduce blood flow to the limbs
- 29 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for kidney conditions
- 28 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for nervous system conditions
To put it simply: Diabetes affects EVERYONE.
How can you reduce added sugar in your diet?
Added Sugars vs. Natural Sugars (Good vs. Bad?)
Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as the sugars in milk and fruits. While conceptually similar, added sugars are worse for us than natural sugars. This is because foods with added sugars–an apple, for example–have additional nutrients that impact how our body breaks down the sugars. In the case of the apple, the fruit has fiber, which slows digestion. Therefore, your body will experience less of a blood sugar spike than it would after having a soda, for example. However, this does not mean that there is no limit to how much natural sugar we should eat. People should stick to one serving of fruit at a time and two to three servings a day, maximum.
Finding added sugars in your food
The first step to reducing added sugar from your diet is to identify it. While this sounds easy, added sugars come in various forms and under numerous aliases. Reading the ingredient list on a processed food’s label can identify these added sugars for you.
Names for added sugar include the following: Brown Sugar, Corn Sweetener, Corn Syrup, Fruit Juice Concentrates, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Invert Sugar, Malt Sugar, Molasses, Raw Sugar, Sugar, Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, Sucrose), Syrup.
Tips for getting less added sugar
- Remove sugar (white and brown), syrup, honey and molasses from the table
- Cut back on the amount of sugar added to things you eat or drink regularly like cereal, pancakes, coffee or tea. Try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean down from there, or consider using an artificial sweetener.
- Buy sugar-free or low-calorie beverages.
- Buy fresh fruits or fruits canned in water or natural juice. Avoid fruit canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup.
- Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, add fresh fruit (try bananas, cherries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots).
- When baking cookies, brownies or cakes, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t notice the difference.
- Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use extracts such as almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
- Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar; try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in recipes (use equal amounts).
- Try zero-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose or saccharin in moderation