The next time you add that extra heap of sugar to your morning coffee or reach for that sticky bun, you might want to reconsider. Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that the more that Americans ate added sugars—whether found in processed foods or added to home-cooked meals—the more overweight they became.
And the logic is simple: The more sugar you consume, the more empty calories you consume and if you have not working out to burn off these extra calories, the more weight you gain.
And let's be honest, all of us are eating way too much sugar. According to the American Heart Association, the average adult consumes 22.2 teaspoons of sugar every day. Yet the AHA says that adult women should only have 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar per day; men should have 9 teaspoons (36 grams) every day; and children should have 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day. That’s a huge difference when you compare what we are consuming and what we should be consuming.
This news is particularly important to African-Americans because we are disproportionately impacted by obesity, diabetes and heart disease--all of which are attributed to a slew of factors including a high intake of sugar and a sedentary lifestyle.
So the message is clear. In order to watch our weight and heart health, not only do we need to work out more, but we need to be sugar savvy (and practice some self-control).
Here are some tips on cutting back on the sweet stuff:
Read Food Labels: If you are not looking on the label, you will have no idea what you are putting in your body—and that's the real danger. You would be surprised how much sugar is in ketchup, instant flavored oatmeal, cereals, canned soups, granola bars, fruit cups in syrup, you name it. And in a lot of processed foods, sugar is masked by other names such as fructose, sucrose, glucose, galactose and corn syrup.
Opt for healthier, less processed foods: Buy fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, plain oatmeal, lean meats, poultry, fish, and dairy products. The natural sugars in these foods are good for the body.
Go easy on the soda, fruit juices and coffee blended drinks: The bulk of added sugars are coming from these popular sugary drinks. I know it will be hard, but opt for water, unsweetened ice tea or sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime. That way, every now and then you can reward yourself with a soda. Just not every day.
Satisfy that sweet tooth mostly with fruit: Yes, I am fully aware that an apple doesn't taste as good as a slice of Grandma's sweet potato pie. (Nor am I telling you that you can't eat her pie again.) But if you swap out some of those sweets for an apple, banana or a cup of strawberries, your waistline will thank you.
To learn more about sugar and your health, go to the American Heart Association.
(Photo Credit: Frank May /Landov)