“Attention all units. Crystalline substance suspected of causing obesity. Suspect is considered fattening and dangerous and last seen hiding in thousands of food labels under a number of aliases. Suspect is recognized as white or brown granules but often disguised as an amber liquid as well. Approach suspect with caution. Ingest at your own risk.”
It’s sad but true. Sugar is the number one suspect in our nation’s obesity epidemic. Sweet and addictive, sugar hides in massive quantities in a variety of unsuspecting foods like yogurts, condiments, soup, peanut butter, salad dressings, lunch meats, canned fruits and vegetables, sauces, and non-dairy creamers. Sugar is considered “nutritive,” meaning it contains calories – but they’re empty calories offering no nutritional value whatsoever. Once a rare delicacy enjoyed only by the affluent, sugar – in its many forms – has saturated the food market and is now the number one food additive. Today, the average adult consumes over 150 pounds of sugar per year. That’s nearly a half a pound, or around 50 teaspoons, of sugar each day.
Let’s break this down: Sugar is a carbohydrate with a calorie count of 4 calories per gram. Four grams of sugar is equivalent to one sugar packet or just under one teaspoon – which would be just about 16 calories. Now consider this: Those 50 teaspoons of sugar you’re putting down each day? They account for 800 of your daily calories. That 20-oz. bottle of soda you just drank? 66 grams of sugar or 264 calories.
It’s no shock, then, that according to the CDC, more than one third of American adults and 17% of children in the U.S. are obese. In addition to adding inches to our waistlines, sugar consumption has also been linked to heart conditions, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, candida, hypertension and dramatic spikes and drops in blood sugar leading to adrenal failure. And let’s not forget that high sugar consumption is a leading cause of tooth decay. There’s even some evidence that high sugar consumption causes “body-wide biochemical stress and inflammation” which leads to a weakened immune system.
This begs the question, “How much is too much sugar?” In 2009 the American Heart Association suggested that women limit themselves to 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, men 9 teaspoons, and children 3 teaspoons – a tall challenge in today’s sugar-laden processed food and beverage market. Take, for example, the following culprits:
- Fat free yogurt with fruit: 47 grams (nearly 12 teaspoons)
- 1 can of Coke Classic: 39 grams (nearly 7 teaspoons)
- 1 cup of Fruit Loops: 16 grams (4 teaspoons)
- Grande Starbucks vanilla Frappuccino: 58 grams (over 14 teaspoons)
- 1 cup of canned pineapples in syrup: 43 grams (almost 11 teaspoons)
So what’s a sweet tooth to do? Tune in next week for tips on finding hidden sugars in foods and strategies for cutting back on the amount of sugar you eat. We’ll also give you the low-down on the many artificial sweeteners currently on the market. And later this week we’ll post some recipes for low-sugar, healthy Super Bowl snacks and meals. Meanwhile, keep in mind that a spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but it won’t help you pull up your skinny jeans!