How to spot and avoid added sugar

Sugar is among the most heated topics in nutrition today and most Millennials do a decent job, or at least try, to moderate their sugar intake.

Thankfully, lots of them had a health or nutrition class during their school years, and doctors always tell their patients to stay away from a diet high in sugar in order to avoid the many health issues linked to excess sugar. We know not to add unreasonable amounts of sugar into our coffee during our morning routine or coffee break, and not to consume as much junk food as we would like.

Nutrition labels are a huge help in this regard, but they can also be confusing to read. For one, most people are aware of table sugar – the common white sugar most people use on a daily basis -, but are not aware of added sugars in things they do not expect.

“One of the really big sources of added sugar is through beverages,” says Marina Komvarovsky, Public Health professional, from Chicago, “and sometimes we don’t even think about that when we think about food, because we think about solid foods.”

Sugars and the calories they provide are considered empty calories as they don’t provide nutritional value. Given the soda-drinking habits of many in the United States and other developed countries, not being able to get correct information from nutritional labels can become a public health issue.

Sugar can also be found in many forms, such as high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or glucose and not everyone is informed about these sugars. While 53% of Millennials try to avoid white sugar, 44% avoid high fructose corn syrup, 24% sucrose and 29% glucose. It seems that a better rule of thumb is to avoid processed foods as much as possible to avoid the problem of having to decipher the many chemicals in many foods. It also doesn’t help that alcohol usually has no nutritional labels, and this is a problem for cocktail or prepared drinks that rely on sugar for flavor.

Fruit juices, coffee beverages, and other beverages have a lot of added sugars. Those who are interested in decreasing their sugar consumption can start by reducing the amount of prepared drinks one consumes. Portion control can also be helpful in decreasing added sugar intake, and this is especially helpful to people who enjoy sauces, fruit juices, and even sports drinks. “In the front of the label you’re often going to see what percentage of natural fruit juice [is contained], if you look at the ingredient label you’ll see how much sugar is added. The nutrition label lists sugars under the carbohydrates,” says Komarovsky.

Cook at home more often

“Eating unprocessed food is better for you, even baking foods from scratch is healthier,” Komarovsky says. “Food companies put a lot of salt and sugar into the food they make because it will make food more palatable to more people, but your palette can change.” Reducing the amount of sugar in recipes while baking can be a big help in avoiding the added sugars that are not beneficial to the body. People who crave sugary foods can start by introducing foods to their diet that naturally have sugar in them, such as fruits and homemade smoothies. The palette can actually get used to eating in certain ways, and people who eat more processed foods may have a palette that has become accustomed to the high content of salts and sugars in these foods.

Even eating out less often might help decrease the amount of sugar one is eating and unfortunately Millennials are known to be restaurants lover. Not only do Millennials eat out more than the other generations, but they also spend more money eating out – about $174 per month, compared to $153 for the other generations. Furthermore, 87% of Millennials say they’re willing to splurge on a nice meal out, even if they’re short on money. Cutting out the amount of time spent dining out would not only be helpful for our spending but also our health. In restaurants or fast food restaurants, one has no control over how much salt or sugar is being added to food. Cooking at home and getting used to eating things with less sugar can help people avoid diseases associated with excess sugar, such as diabetes and obesity.

Though it’s true that people need to educate themselves about the many names of sugar, perhaps avoiding processed foods and choosing as many natural ingredients is possible is more helpful to living a lifestyle with less sugar.

Written by Ingrid Cruz

How to spot and avoid added sugar

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