By Betty Murray
The average American eats about 20 teaspoons of sugar every day, according to a report from the National Health and nutrition Examination Survey database. On average, men consume 335 calories per day in sugar, while women consume 230 calories of sugar each day.
The primary sources of added sugar (sugar that is not naturally occurring) in the American diet come from sugar-sweetened drinks, including soft drinks and sports drinks; cakes, cookies, and other desserts. Some foods, such as fruit, contain naturally occurring sugar, which is less of a concern compared to the added sugars found in many restaurant and store-bought packaged foods.
Even “health” foods can contain large amounts of added sugars. Added sugars are syrups and sugars that are added to a food during the processing or preparation processes, and can include white sugar, brown sugar, honey, and chemically manufactured sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. Next time you’re at the grocery store, spend some time looking at the nutrition label — you might be surprised just how many foods you’ve been eating contain added sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends that no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance come from added sugars. This adds up to about 100 calories per day (about six teaspoons) for women, and 150 calories (about nine teaspoons) daily for men.
It can be tricky to track just how much added sugar you are consuming on a daily basis because sugar isn’t always listed as “sugar” on a nutrition label. Other names for added sugars include: agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar, and syrup.
Tips to beat your sugar cravings
• Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda. Calories consumed in beverages are considered “empty” calories because they contain little to no nutritional value, and they won’t keep you full. By simply cutting sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet, you can drastically reduce the amount of added sugars you consume on a daily basis. Doing so will also help curb your cravings, as these beverages only lead to craving more of the same.
• Satisfy your sweet tooth the healthy way. When you crave sugar, pick up a piece of fruit instead of a sweet treat like cookie. Although fruit contains naturally occurring sugars, it is the far healthier choice when compared with processed baked goods or candy. Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruit and vegetables, and fiber and other nutrients found in those foods slows down your body’s digestion, keeping blood sugar levels from spiking.
• Cook more often; eat out less frequently. When you prepare and cook your food at home, you control what goes into your meal. Spend more time at home cooking healthy meals with whole foods, and less time eating out, and you’ll begin to feel those sugar cravings start to fade.
• Don’t jump to artificial sweeteners. Relying on artificial sweeteners won’t help curb your sugar cravings, and although they contain zero calories, artificial sweeteners, like Splenda and Sweet ‘n Low aren’t all that great for you, either. Research has shown that people who consume large amount of artificial sweeteners are more likely to be obese. They also don’t help you to curb your craving for sweets.
The best way to cut added sugars from your diet and curb your sugar cravings is to eat a diet full of whole, “real” foods. Stick to the shopping the outside aisles of the grocery store and skip the processed and packaged foods found on the inner aisles, as those foods are more likely to contain added and even hidden sugar.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.