Added sugar is everywhere in the food supply. It’s so ubiquitous that you might find some packaged and processed foods unappetizing without it.
Evolution has hard-wired our palates to prefer sweet-tasting foods to obtain quick energy and to avoid bitter-tasting poisons. But in America today, our diet has reinforced and strengthened that preference beginning in early childhood. Americans take in an average of more than 17 teaspoons of sugar (about 290 calories) a day from added sugars, often in sweetened beverages, far more than recommended.
Sugar is added to countless food products, including breads, condiments, dairy-based foods, nut butters, salad dressings, and sauces. The sugar is added not just to impart sweetness. It’s also used to extend shelf life and adjust attributes like the texture, body, color, and browning capability of food.
To start reducing added sugar in your diet, first it helps to know where it comes from. Here are the basics.
Where’s the sugar?
Unless you consume only whole, unprocessed foods, you are bound to have added sugars in your daily diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages lead the pack, but many other foods also contain added sugar—sometimes a substantial amount in a typical portion.
Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute about half of the total added sugar in the U.S. food supply. The source of the sweetness in most products is high-fructose corn syrup. These sugary drinks include any of the following:
- regular soda
- juice drinks, like fruit punch and juice “cocktails” (but not whole fruit and vegetable juices)
- energy drinks
- sports drinks
- sweet tea
- sweetened coffee drinks
- sweetened water
- any other beverages with sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup added to enhance sweetness.
It’s important not to confuse sugar-sweetened juice drinks with whole fruit juices. Processed beverages like fruit punch or cranberry juice cocktail contain a fair amount of added sugar—in the case of cranberry juice cocktail, the sugar is added to counter the naturally sour taste of cranberries. This is an example of a fruit drink that is also a sugar-sweetened beverage, and therefore a source of added sugar. Whole (100% fruit) juices contain only the sugars in the juice extracted from the fruit or vegetable. However, it’s a good idea to limit even whole juices in your diet.
Sugar-sweetened drinks can pump a large amount of added sugar into your body, and quickly. These beverages are not as filling as sweet whole foods like fruit, so it’s easier to consume a lot of them. On average, Americans get more than 200 calories a day from sugary drinks, about four times what we consumed in 1965.
Sweets and desserts.
Brownies, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, pastries, pies, puddings, and sweet rolls are just some of the processed foods widely understood to contain substantial amounts of added sugar.
Honey and syrups.
Sugars naturally present in honey and syrups, including maple syrup, are also considered added sugars. Although honey and syrup are sold as freestanding products, you don’t eat them by themselves. They are squirted into hot drinks, drizzled on pancakes and waffles, or added during baking or making sweets.
Condiments are defined as spices, sauces, or other preparations that you add to food to enhance its flavor. Tomato ketchup, relish, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, and salsa are condiments, and they can contain considerable amounts of sugar per serving.
A vast variety of prepared foods contain additional sweeteners. Breakfast cereals contain added sugar, but so do ready-to-eat meals, breads, soups, tomato sauces, snacks, and cured meats.
Among the many processed and prepared foods with added sugar are sugar-sweetened yogurts. Plain unsweetened yogurt contains naturally occurring milk sugars, but added sugar can double or triple the total amount of sugar.
New nutrition labels in the works will make it easier to know how much of the total is added sugar as opposed to natural milk sugars.
To learn more about ways to improve diet while keeping your sugar intake to a minimum, check out Reducing
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24 NIV
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 NIV
For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit? Romans 15:13 NIV
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6 NIV
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 NIV
Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3 NIV
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Romans 14:1 NIV
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11 NIV
For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4 NIV
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV
I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30 NIV
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