Health Check – Sugar: The Hidden Calories
One in 3 people in the U.S. and Grundy County are obese. For many the main cause is eating too much sugar. One key to solving the problem is understanding what we are eating. Many foods and drinks appear healthy. Yet when we take a closer look, we find this is not always the case. Sugar is often hidden in foods such as soda, juice, bread, cereal, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, ice cream, canned fruit, and even peanut butter and jelly.
Look at the Nutrition Facts on any processed food item and find the sugar content. Remember, 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon. Take for example one favorite local soda has a whopping 75 grams of sugar. That means there are 19 teaspoons of sugar in just one of these sodas! Not only are foods like soda loaded with sugar, but things like ketchup, which is actually one third sugar. Even while trying to drink a healthy alternative such as fruit juice this may not be healthier. Often orange, apple, and grape appearing juices may really be drinks with just as much sugar as sodas.
For the average person eating 2,000 calories per day, a maximum of 35 grams or 8 teaspoons of sugar should be taken in daily. Research shows that we Americans usually eat 125 grams of sugar every day. That is about 500 extra calories a week. If you keep this up for a year and don’t burn those extra calories, that’s 10 extra pounds you’ll gain! This amount of weight gain could lead to all sorts of additional health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, and high cholesterol beginning at significantly younger ages! Recent studies have also shown that being obese leads to lethargy, early onset of puberty in girls, and dementia.
Nowadays it seems like everything is loaded with sugar. It’s easy to become discouraged when looking for healthy options. But choosing foods containing less sugar isn’t hard. Keep it simple, literally. That means avoiding foods that have been highly processed or contain refined sugars. Generally, the more simple the food, the better. Eat more wholesome, unprocessed foods like nonwhite whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies. Cut out extra sugar by cutting out sugary drinks. Check what you’re really eating by looking at the Nutrition Facts. Set a good example by making healthy choices.
A healthy future is a brighter future. It starts today by making informed and smart choices about what we eat.
Contributing to this column were University of the South students Linnea Carver and Ben Almassi.