8 September 2015 Be Sugar Savvy! Lose Weight by Decreasing Added Sugars in Your Diet

What happens when you boil soda pop? This was one of my favorite questions to ask teenage students in one of my nutrition classes. At the beginning of class, I poured a 12 oz. can of pop into a pot on the stove and let it simmer during the entire class. At the end of class after the water had evaporated, all that was left in the pot was a thick syrup. We measured the syrup and it was 8 teaspoons or 32 grams of sugar. Then, I asked the students, how many of them would mix 8 teaspoons of sugar with water and drink it. Of course, they all shook their heads in disgust.

According to the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) the average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Fifty percent (50%) of those calories come from sweetened beverages. Interestingly enough, the 2015 dietary guidelines, which will come out later this year, will highlight the importance of decreasing added sugars in our diet.

Why is the focus on added sugars?

Sugars provide carbohydrates and calories, but no key vitamins or minerals. Thus, by reducing added sugars in our diet we can decrease calories without compromising nutrients. High intakes of sugar have been linked to overweight and obesity, increased triglyceride levels, hypertension, and lower intakes of essential vitamins and minerals.

What are the two types of sugars in foods and beverages?

1. Naturally occurring sugars are sugars in milk and fruit. These sugars are part of the original food and are not added.
2. Added sugars are sugars that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared, such as in soft drinks and desserts.

You do not need to avoid fruits and milk because those foods also contain many other important nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, antioxidants, calcium and vitamin D, which are needed as part of a healthy diet. However, you should limit the amounts of foods and beverages that you consume with added sugars.

What are the major food sources of added sugars in the American diet?

  • Regular soft drinks
  • Sweetened coffee drinks
  • Energy drinks and sports drinks
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Pre-Sweetened Ready-to-Eat Cereals
  • Jellies/Jams
  • Desserts (pudding, baked goods and chocolate)
  • Candy
  • Snacks, such as granola bars and canned fruit in syrup
  • Sweetened dairy products, such as some yogurts or Greek yogurts and ice cream
  • Sweetened Grain Products
  • Ketchup
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Salad Dressings

Do natural sugars count as added sugars?

When counting added sugars, yes, you need to count natural sugar sources, such as maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, molasses, honey, corn syrup and cane sugar. Just because these sugars are from natural sources, does not mean you can eat as much as you want of them. They all still contain 4 calories in one gram. Though the FDA has proposed a change to labels, unfortunately, the current Nutrition Facts Label does not differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.

How do you identify “hidden sources” of added sugars?

Look at the ingredient list. In addition to the natural sugars listed above, these are different names for added sugars.

Sucrose Dextrose Invert Sugar Maltose
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Anhydrous Dextrose Malt Syrup Nectars (peach and pear)
Galactose Fructose Lactose Cane Juice

How to sweeten in the kitchen without added sugars?

1. Buy really fresh fruit in season. Nothing is as satisfying as a Palisade Peach from Colorado in August!
2. Use bananas in smoothies, oatmeal, and baked desserts. If your bananas are overripe, peel them and place them in a small bag in the freezer for future use in smoothies.
3. In your baked goods, try unsweetened applesauce as a replacement for ½ of the sugar in addition to decreasing liquids by ¼ cup.
4. If you soak unsweetened dried fruit, such as prunes, dates, and apricots in hot water and then puree, you can use these fruits also as a healthy sugar substitute in your baked goods.
5. Add naturally sweet berries, such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries to unsweetened Greek or regular yogurt.

By decreasing the added sugar in the foods and beverages you consume, you can decrease your calories and decrease your weight without losing any vitamins or minerals. Switching to water instead of a sweetened beverage is an easy way to start!

Martha Henze

MS, RD, Traveling Taste Buds, LLC

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Nutrients/"Carbs: Fiber, Starch, & Sugar" Weight Loss/Sugars & Sweeteners

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