There are two types of sugar:
- Simple sugars – These are naturally occurring, and can be found in fruits, vegetables, and grains.
- Refined sugars – These come from the sugar cane plant and are used to make processed foods and drinks like baked goods, cereals, sodas, and fruit juices. These “added sugars” can even hide in unsuspecting places, like ketchup, tomato sauce, and bread.
Refined sugars are the ones we want to avoid when we can. Refined, or “added sugars,” in excess have been linked to health concerns, like:
- type 2 diabetes
- poor dental health
- an increased risk of heart disease
- inflammation in the gut
- and more
And here are five surprising facts about sugar:
5 Surprising Facts About Sugar
- A typical packet of gummy fruit snacks contains 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar, more than half the recommended daily amount for children.
- Toddlers who drink even half a cup of 100% juice — made entirely from fruit or vegetables — daily have 30% higher risk of becoming overweight within two years.
- Bottled smoothies might seem healthful, but they often contain as much sugar as a 12-ounce soda.
- Sugar can hide in ingredient lists, going by other names like malt syrup, agave nectar and cane juice crystals.
- The average coffee-shop blueberry muffin has more than 7 teaspoons of added sugar, exceeding the recommended daily amount for women.
So, what are some simple ways you can reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet? The American Heart Association shares these five tips:
- Swap out the soda. Water is best, and sparkling waters can be a great, sugar-free alternative to sodas. (I personally prefer the Spindrift sparkling water brand, which is flavored with natural fruit juice.)
- Eat fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits when you’re looking to add something sweet to the mix. Choose fruit canned in water or natural juice. Avoid fruit canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup. Drain and rinse in a colander to remove excess syrup or juice.
- Compare food labels and choose products with the lowest amounts of added sugars. Dairy and fruit products will contain some natural sugars. Added sugars can be identified in the ingredients list. (Usually look for around 5 grams of sugar/serving.)
- Add fruit. Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, try fresh fruit (bananas, cherries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots). (Be aware that dried food is usually coated in sugar, so opt for dehydrated fruit or juice-sweetened dried fruit.)
- Cut the serving back. When baking cookies, brownies or cakes, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t even notice the difference!
One last thing: The book mentioned in this article, Sugarproof: The Hidden Dangers of Sugar That Are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk And WHAT YOU CAN DO, seems like a really helpful read if you’re trying to get ideas of ways to minimize your child’s sugar intake!