NYC Dietitian Discusses the Dangers of a High-Sugar Diet and Where We’re Getting Our Information

Some Health Officials Have Their Hands in the Cookie Jar

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Just a couple of years ago, the Dietary Advisory Panel released their recommendations that no more than twelve teaspoons of sugar should be consumed per day (for adults).  The average American consumes between 25 – 30 teaspoons. (In one Coca Cola, there are 18.2 teaspoons of sugar) of added sugars each day. This, of course, stirred up the sugar industry, as the Dietary Advisory Panel affects nutrition policies nationwide.

So, naturally, we assume we’re all on a healthier path. Then I read this. A Washington Post Article revealed the results of two Boston University Researchers who found that almost 100 health groups, including the American Diabetes Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have received sponsorships by Coca-Cola Co. or PepsiCo. The researchers discovered that the sugar industry paid dietitians to tweet about their opposition to soda taxes. This makes my blood boil.

This study was on the tail end of a big discovery that revealed the sugar industry, in the 1950s, had Harvard University studies claim that cholesterol and fats were the principle causes of heart disease. These studies shaped GENERATIONS of eaters.

Our jobs as dietitians and health professionals are to give our clients the best, un-biased, information we have before us. This means looking at the facts, looking at who publishes papers and who their sponsors are, and having the health and wellbeing of our clients a moral obligation.

I want to clarify to my clients and readers: Sugar is a primary cause of chronic disease, obesity, and cancer in our society. Reducing sugar means living healthier. Here are the basics about sugars and how to reduce consumption in your diet.

  • sugar-1514247_1280There are naturally-occurring sugars and added sugars: The former comes from fruits and milks. The latter are added to foods (like sodas, cookies etc.) and have many different names: brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, the “ose” family (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, syrup.
  • Pay Attention to the Product and Understand the Labels: Food label reading is tough. What does 20 grams of sugar mean? There are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon, so 20 grams of sugar is 5 teaspoons. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 added teaspoons of sugar per day for women and 9 for men. Always check the number of grams on processed foods. Even “organic” or “natural” labels. Added sugar is added sugar, no matter what the packaging.
  • Train Your Taste buds: Instead of making sweets a go-to snack, have savory treats or fruits in the house. Cut up veggies. Try toasted pita bread with hummus. Offer guacamole and other tasty dips. Make fruit kebobs with coconut shavings. Cut back slowly on the sweets until you change you and your family’s cravings.
  • Buy Unsweetened Products: Plain yogurt and oatmeal. That way, you can control how much sugar you want to add – a drizzle of honey is much better than 10 grams of added sugars (which ends up being 2 ¼ teaspoons!
  • water-1543166_1920Don’t Be Fooled by Juices: Juice sounds better than soda, but juice boxes and bottles have almost as much, if not as much sugar as many sodas. Read the labels. Make water your principle beverage. If you want flavor, get creative. Drink water with lemon slices, raspberry-lime iced tea, steep herbal tea (your favorite flavors) and cool down, add soda water for a sparkly refresher.
  • Don’t confuse sugar with flavor: We actually lose so much flavor because of sugar. There are so many creative ways to make flavor pop without dousing it in sugar. Add cinnamon sticks to your tea.  Reduce added sugars when you bake and add nutmeg and mixed spices. Consider using fruit puree – which is still sugar, but natural – in combination with sugars.
  • Live a little! Who doesn’t want a gooey cinnamon roll or your grandma’s homemade fudge once in a while? Cherish those flavors and enjoy! Guilt-free.

Reducing your sugar consumption will reduce your risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes, chronic disease and cancer. High sugar diets are directly linked to obesity, so lowering sugar intake will, automatically, lower the chance of being overweight. And, if health wasn’t the only perk, you’ll be waking up your taste buds to new flavors.