New guidelines limit the consumption of sugars you didn’t even know were there.
What did you have for lunch today, and how much sugar was in it? It might be more than you realised, thanks to sugars added to seemingly healthy foods like yoghurt, salad dressings and bread. And it’s almost certainly more than you wanted.
In November 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration capped sugar intake, recommending no more than 10 percent of total calories, or about 50 grams (12.5 tsp.) of added sugar per day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, added sugar makes up about 13 percent of adults’ kilojoule intake.
The key word is “added”. Foods that have naturally occurring sugar, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy are packed with nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. Packaged foods with added sugar don’t have the same nutritional benefits, and eating more than the recommended 50 grams makes it hard to eat nutrient-dense foods that have fibre, iron, zinc and vitamin E.
The FDA recently mandated that labels include a line for “added sugars” to help consumers make informed choices. Companies will need to implement these changes by mid 2018.
The first line of defence is to look for sugar in the ingredients list. Aliases for sugar include sucrose, brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup and raw cane syrup/sugar. If they’re listed in the top five ingredients, it’s best to eat something else.
To figure out how much sugar is added to a product with naturally occurring sugars – like milk or yoghurt – compare the nutrition label for a plain version with that of flavoured. For example, 240ml of low-fat milk has 13 grams of sugar (in the form of lactose). The same amount of low-fat chocolate milk has 24 grams of sugar; take away the 13 grams of lactose and you’re left with 11 grams of added sugar.
Routine exercise plays a major role in promoting insulin sensitivity – key in diabetes prevention. This may mean that as a runner you can “afford” a bit more added sugar in your diet. But add the sweet stuff yourself to control the amount you consume.
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Consuming too much sugar has been linked with a host of ailments:
Diabetes. High-sugar diets have been associated with obesity, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. A 2015 study found that a regular intake of sweetened drinks was tied to a greater incidence of the disease.
Visceral Fat. Drinking sweetened beverages daily is associated with visceral fat, or fat around internal organs. This type of fat (also called belly fat) may play a role in insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
Chronic Disease. Sugar is also a potential culprit for obesity, liver damage, heart disease, and cancer. High-sugar diets increase levels of bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and decrease levels of good HDL cholesterol.
Hunger. Refined sugar messes with the hormones that make you feel full. When you eat too much added sugar, you don’t get feelings of satiety and can end up eating more.