Good health is all about moderation, which is what we need to live longer, fuller lives. That means putting a damper on the amount of sugar we consume each day. But that’s not as easy as giving up dessert; sugar hides in many foods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum intake of 25 grams of sugar daily –about five teaspoons. But each day, the average American consumes up to 22 teaspoons of sugar. In a year, that adds up to more than 100 pounds of the sweet stuff. That’s the weight of an average 11-year-old!
Eating too much sugar contributes to obesity, which in turn raises the risk of a host of health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
"If you check the labels on some of your favorite foods you might be surprised to find that they contain large amounts of sugar," says Blanca B. Bisuna, MD, a family medicine physician at Mission Heritage Medical Group in Mission Viejo. Condiments such as ketchup can have up to 3.7 grams of sugar in one teaspoon, instant oatmeal as much as 16 grams in a serving, and some fruit juices and iced teas pack a whopping 54 grams per bottle. "Always read the labels," suggests Dr. Bisuna. "Knowing exactly what is in the food that you put into your body will help you avoid all kinds of unnecessary health risks," she says.
"The processed and raw sugars found in baked goods, soft drinks, condiments and cereals don’t actually have any nutritional value," Dr. Bisuna continues. "The real value of sugar is found in natural sources such as fruits and vegetables, which supply a more nutritious source of energy."
Dr. Bisuna recommends giving up or cutting back on the processed and raw sugars and swapping them out for more natural ones. Look out for food labels that list things like sucrose, glucose, maltose, lactose and dextrose -- these are just different ways of saying "sugar."
"If you need to sweeten up your meal, honey, agave and naturally occurring maple syrup are rich in antioxidants which can actually help fight the free radical damage that has been associated with the development of cancer," Dr. Bisuna suggests.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet rich in natural grains and fish, coupled with regular exercise, is a winning recipe that promotes longevity as well as physical and mental well-being.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.