Last week I told you about healthy sweeteners to incorporate into your nutritional habit. How do you make informed choices about what to choose when you are not able to make your own treats? Learning to read nutrition labels is an important step in taking control of your health and energy. Food companies use many different names for sugar on nutrition labels, so that's a good starting point.
How much sugar is safe?
Before diving into the plethora of aliases for sugar, let's talk about how much sugar one should be consuming in a day. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women per day. Children, depending on their age, should consume no more than 3 - 6 teaspoons, (12 - 25 grams) of added sugar daily. For perspective, one 12 oz can of Coca Cola (any soda will fall into this category) has 39 grams of sugar, mostly from high-fructose corn syrup, a particularly damaging from of sugar. Many foods most people would consider "healthy" have large amounts of added sugar, such as granola bars, flavored yogurts, fruit juices, and so called "heart-healthy" cereals.
So what if I eat too much sugar?
Eating too much sugar over the long-term (years and decades) leads to insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. In the shorter term, sugar causes chronic inflammation, which is a pre-cursor to the chronic illnesses listed above. So avoiding added sugars is a wise strategy for long-term health. Remember when I told you that Americans consume an annual average of 170 lbs of sugar per person? That's almost half a pound of sugar per person every day, or about 35 teaspoons, or 140 grams of sugar. That's about 3 1/2 12 oz cans of Coke every single day.
What am I looking for?
So what should you be looking for on nutrition labels? Here is an incomplete list of different names for sugar you might find on nutrition labels:
Barley Malt, Barbados sugar, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Cane juice, Cane sugar, Caramel, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Dextrose, Diastatic malt, Diastase, Ethyl maltol, Fructose, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Galactose, Glucose, High Fructose corn syrup, Honey, Lactose, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Malt syrup, Mannitol, Rice syrup, Sorbitol, Sorghum or Sorghum syrup, Sucrose, Sugar, Turbinado sugar.
Anything ending in -tol (Sorbitol or mannitol, for example), is a sugar alcohol that is hard to digest and can be detrimental to your microbiome, the collection of gut bacteria that works to keep you healthy. Keep in mind that even so-called "healthy" sugars (honey or cane sugar, for example) are likely highly processed and refined and any healthy aspects have been stripped out of them during the industrialization of the food-like substance that results at the end of the process. Most other sweeteners are derived from beets or corn, both of which are crops grown mostly from Genetically Modified Organisms, engineered to withstand high amounts of glyphosate, a toxic weed-killer that does enormous damage to our microbiome.
And never ever choose a food-like substance that contains artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are known neurotoxins that damage your brain and can lead to migraines, insomnia and other sleep problems, joint pain, depression, anxiety, memory loss, and more. And artificial sweeteners do not help you lose weight! They trick your body into thinking you ate something sweet, triggering an insulin response, and when there is no actual sugar to utilize, you are left feeling hungrier than before you consumed the artificial sweetener.
Just eat real food. And if you are ready to learn the nutritional habits that will form the foundation of health and energy for the rest of your life, check out my e-course "Six Weeks to Abundant Energy" HERE.