Sugar enhances foods and drinks but the danger is that sometimes, it’s hard to tell when we’re consuming too much. Sugar is added to practically everything that we can get in supermarket shelves—colas, breads, cookies, cakes, juices, ice creams, etc.—it almost feels like there’s no escaping it. Sugar naturally occurs in practically all food products but the natural form is more complex versus additives that are mostly empty calories. If not taken in moderation, this could post some health problems.
There are a number of reasons aside from boosting flavor why sugar is added so much in many types of food. These are:
- Lending food texture and in some cases color
- Acts as a preservative such as in jams
- In breads, it facilitates fermentation allowing dough to rise
- Acts as a bulking agent
- Acts as a balancer of flavor in acidic and sour foods
Foods that contains solid fats are also usually combined with sugars. This combination is called SoFAS, and it is alarming to think that this constitutes about 35% of total calories in the American diet. Consuming too much SoFAS means that you might be missing out no nutrients from other healthier sources of food and that you’re filling up on calories which can contribute greatly to excess fat which can lead to obesity. Overall, not more than 5-15% of calories should come from SoFAS.
Some of the health problems that too much sugar can cause are:
- Tooth decay/cavities—bacteria thrives off sugars and together they form plaque which stick to the teeth causing decay and cavities. This is especially true if you have poor oral hygiene.
- Inadequate nutrition—sugars can give you a sense of fullness which is practically devoid of the nutrients that the body needs.
- Obesity – there is not a single cause for obesity but taking in too much sugar is one of them. The sugars added to foods make them calorie dense and these facilitate deposits of fat in the body. This is especially dangerous if the person who consumes it is sedentary.
- Increased levels of triglycerides in the blood—this increases the risk of heart disease and other conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
The American Heart Association recommends not taking more than 6 tsp of added sugar a day for women and not more than 9 tsp for men. It is estimated that most Americans consume 22 tsp a day—way more that the recommended amount.
In order to avoid taking in too much added sugar, consider the following tips:
- Use artificial sweetener when you can on drinks like coffee, teas
- Choose diet sodas over regular ones, and limit drinking to one serving
- Avoid eating too much candies and chocolates and choose sugar free gum
- Choose your breakfast cereals carefully, many are loaded with too much sugars especially the frosted ones
- Choose fresh fruits as a dessert over cakes or doughnuts
- Encourage drinking of more water and fruit instead of sweetened beverages
- Learn to read nutrition labels and see how much sugar is in what you’re eating