28 May 2010

Heart Health: Beware of Sugar Pirates in Your Diet

*** How you can be at risk for heart disease by the amount of sugar you eat and where it's hidden in your food.

From Denny: Here's a scary statistic. Did you know that the average American consumes about 156 pounds of sugar every year? (U.S. Department of Agriculture statistic). So much is hidden in every day food it's astounding.

A new study in the Journal of American Medicine Association now links additional sugars in our diet to higher risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

How did they figure out this disturbing connection between serious disease and too much sugar in our diets? This was the first major study to take a look at sugar and our blood fats. What scientists found out is that added sugars, like those used to can fruit for better taste and preservation had an adverse effect on blood fats. Bad effect on blood fats is a bad effect on the heart.

We all know that sugars exist naturally in fruits and vegetables. What's bad is food manufacturers add more sugar and sometimes consumers also add more sugar at the table.

How much sugar is the average American adult getting in their diet every day? About 104 grams, way over the top of remotely healthy. Recommended levels for men is 37.5 and for women the level is at 25 grams per day.

Teens are taking in at an alarming level at about 161 grams of sugar per day. That's six times the recommended healthy level for them.

Foods with naturally occurring sugars:

* Grapes: 1 cup has 15 grams of sugar.

* Raisins: 1/4 cup has 29 grams of sugar.

* Grape juice: One cup has 41 grams of sugar.

* Whole milk: One cup has about 12 grams of sugar. (Milk sugar isn't very sweet.)

* Plain full fat yogurt: Six ounces has 12 grams of sugar.

*Fruit-flavored or vanilla-flavored yogurt: About 25 grams.

*** Stop and think when you are eating dried fruit as the sugars are more concentrated. Because of the lack of water in the dried fruit you may be tempted to eat more to feel full but doing so greatly increases your sugar consumption.

Look around your food pantry and on your grocery shelves for sugar pirates. These guys are stealing your health cleverly hidden from view. That favorite latte you love has about 17 grams of sugar. If you get a Frappucino from Starbucks and the sugar level rises dramatically by three times to a whopping 51 grams of sugar.

And those beloved fruit smoothies? Yep, bad news on that front too. Those bottled smoothies like Odwalla Original Superfood have an incredible 50 grams of sugar. Read that as you just drank the equivalent of five donuts. And they call this healthy?

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for hidden sugars in your every day food check out another source: sandwiches. A submarine chicken six-inch sandwich contains 17 grams of sugar. That's the light version when you compare it to the prepackaged food on your grocery shelves. A family favorite to pack for school lunches, Lunchables, packs more than a school lunch for your kids. It also sneaks into their diets an additional 36 grams of sugar.

Here's another typical school lunch of Welsh's grape juice and six ounces of yogurt that delivers 101 grams of sugar. No wonder school kids are suffering from obesity in this country. The food industry is deceptive and destructive to our children.

To offset this many people try to substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar. The problem there is that all that does is set you up to crave more sugar. What a vicious cycle.

Here's the low down on artificial sweeteners and remember that powerful sweeteners are very hard on the pancreas because of their potency level:

* Splenda is about 600 times as sweet as refined sugar

* Sweet'N Low is about 300 times as sweet as refined sugar

* Equal is about 200 times as sweet as refined sugar

Agave is a new sweetener which is both natural and very low on the glycemic index. Beware that it is also all fructose and does have some calories. This kind of sugar gets packed on as fat in the liver.

So, what are our sugar choices? Let's see, too much regular sugar is bad for our hearts. Too much artificial sweeteners damages the pancreas. Too much natural sugar like from the Agave plant parks fat in our livers. Sweet, huh?

Try not to despair. The folks over at the Mayo Clinic have a plan to help you make wise choices armed with information:

How to reduce added sugar in your diet, Recognizing added sugar, Different names for added sugar (Mayo Clinic)

*** Photo by asobitsuchiya @ flickr

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