No Sugar-Coating the Truth About Our Diet

Summer is full of sweet temptations — nothing beats an ice cream cone or a popsicle on a hot summer day, and the stone fruit that is in season now just begs to be baked into cobblers, crumbles and pies. But we’ve been hearing a lot lately about the negative effects of sugar on our bodies. Many of you who were able to see the movie “Fed Up” during its short stint in Nevada County have made changes to your diet as a result of what you learned about sugar from that film. Some of you are even taking the 10-day sugar-free “Fed-up Challenge!”

So how much sugar is ok in our diet? In 2002, the World Health Organization’s recommendation was that sugars should make up less than 10% of our total energy intake per day, but they have recently drafted new guidelines that suggest that a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day, or around 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an average adult.

They aren’t just talking about table sugar that is added to food — we should also include sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. Sound easy? Consider how much sugar is “hidden” in processed foods. For example, one tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (a teaspoon) of sugar, and a single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar. Whoops, there goes your daily allowance.

Need more inspiration to lower the amount of sugar you consume? This short (four and half minute) video called “The Sugary Truth” from the Tremendous Collective shows how sugar can sneak into our diet and do real damage to our health.

sugary_truthIt also includes five handy tips on how to avoid and reduce the damage that sugar can do to our bodies:

  1. Avoid sugary drinks — drink herbal iced tea or carbonated water instead (but read number two before you purchase a drink).
  2. Read labels on processed foods carefully to determine how much sugar a product contains — watch out for sugar’s many disguise such as “fructose”, “glucose”, and “maltodextrin”.
  3. Exercise — a daily half hour walk can help reduce sugar cravings (and stress!).
  4. Avoid processed “low fat” foods — they often make up for the missing fat with extra salt and…you guessed it…sugar.
  5. Eat more fiber — 25-30 grams a day.