By Ellen Breslau
Sugar is not your friend. The average American eats between 150 and 170 pounds of refined sugars a year, according to the The United States Department of Agriculture. That's over 5,000 tablespoons, or...the weight of an average person.
"Refined, or processed sugar, is stripped of all of its natural nutrients, leaving you with empty calories that make it easy to pack on extra weight," says nutrition and fitness expert Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of The New York Times Bestseller "The Hunger Fix." "When the weight is deposited deep in our bellies, a common occurrence after the age of 50, you increase the risk for heart disease and cancer." Refined sugar also increases insulin levels and contributes to insulin resistance which leads to diabetes, says Dr. Peeke. As if that isn't enough to put a hold on the sweet stuff, refined sugar can also cause your cells to age more quickly and lead to excessive inflammation, which increases your risk for many diseases.
You know to limit sweet treats, but watch out for these nine foods which appear to be healthy, but in truth, are loaded with refined sugars.
1. Granola Cereals or Bars
These might look super healthy, but granola-based cereals can have up to 15 grams of refined sugar in less than a cup. That's like eating three teaspoons of sugar. Granola bars can be even worse with up to 25 grams in a small bar, which is equal to the amount of sugar in a Hershey bar. Granola bars are densely packed calories that are very difficult to portion control as the sweetness increases your appetite for more. If you want satisfying crunch, reach for 12 almonds or walnuts.
2. Certain Salad Dressings
Hold the French, Russian, and Thousand Island next time your order a salad. "These ketchup-based dressings have 9-10 grams of sugar per two-tablespoon serving," says Dr. Peeke. That's more than four times the recommended allowance of about two grams per a two-tablespoon serving. If you think fruity vinaigrettes such as raspberry or pomegranate is a better choice, you'd be wrong. They have the same high amounts of sugar, says Dr. Peeke. Suggestion: Make your own dressing using healthy ingredients (such as olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar) and no refined sugar.
All yogurts contain some sugar in the form of lactose (milk sugar), which is okay. It’s the added sugar—often high fructose corn syrup—typical of 'fruit' yogurts that you need to watch out for, as they can have up to 30 grams (six teaspoons) or more of sugar per serving. A better choice: Grab plain Greek yogurt and add stevia for sweetness, or swirl in 1/2 teaspoon of raw honey or maple syrup, which are natural sources of sugar and are fine in appropriate portions.
MCore FTS Tip: use Agave or coconut syrup in any of its varieties – maple, light, etc
4. Frozen Meals
Frozen entrees are filled with meat and vegetables, so how could they contain sugar, right? Wrong. Frozen entrees commonly have 30-40 grams per serving of added sugars, and at least 500-600 milligrams of sodium.
Refined sugar and excess salt both contribute to increased disease risk. When refined sugar causes the rise in insulin, this directly results in the kidneys retaining sodium. As a consequence, you can experience a rise in blood pressure.
And consider this, Americans' intake of sodium comes from four main sources: 75% is in pre-packaged, processed, and restaurant food; 12 % occurs naturally in food; 6 % is added at the table; and 5 % is added during home cooking. Clearly, the main culprit is processed food, which also contains the most sugar.
Clearly fresh food is preferable over frozen, but if considering frozen just read the entree labels carefully and look out for hidden sugar in the added condiments and sauces.
5. Dried Cranberries
Just one-quarter of a cup—a single handful—can have as much as 29 grams of sugar (the amount of sugar as in a Snickers candy bar!) And it’s not all coming from the naturally sweet fruit. A full cup of fresh cranberries has a just 4 grams of natural sugar. The rest of the sugar in cranberries comes from added sugars used as preservatives and for taste. Try to substitute with fresh berries or keep to very limited amount as an indulgence.
6. Fruit Juice
You buy fruit juice thinking it's just squeezed fruit, but the truth is, fruit juices are often made from fruit concentrates, which aren't always good for you. Concentrates do contain fruit, but often in the concentration process the fruit flavor becomes bland, so sugar is added to make it sweet. Other fruit juices are really "fruit-flavored" drinks, which have very little fruit, if any, and are riddled with refined sugar. Fruit juices can have anywhere between 20-30 grams of sugar per cup. The best thing to do is look for 100% juice unsweetened, which has no added sugar.
MCore FTS Tip: make yourself a healthy fruit smoothie instead
7. BBQ and other sauces
Adding sauces like barbecue, teriyaki, and jerk to grilled meats can add mega flavor with minimal fat, but in some products, sugars can account for a whopping 80 percent of the calories. A skimpy two tablespoon serving of barbecue sauce can have 12 grams of sugar. That's like eating almost three teaspoons-worth of sugar. Instead, make your own sauce and cut the sugar. If you're eating out, ask for the sauce to the side so you can control the amount.
MCore FTS Tip: use a dry rub to season the meat instead; same great flavor but less calories & less sugar
8. White Wine
If you love to have a glass of wine or two with dinner, choose your wine carefully. The amount of sugar in white wine typically depends on the kind of wine you're drinking. Dryer wines tend to have less sugar—around 1.5 grams per glass, while sweet wines, like Rieslings, can have 6 grams per glass. Drink two glasses, and that's 12 grams of sugar! Another option: stick to red wines, since they tend to have less sugar overall.
9. Canned Fruit
Canned fruit is often packed in sugary syrup, which is really calorie-laden high fructose corn syrup. One cup of canned fruit can have 30 grams or more of sugar. That's the equivalent of seven Oreo cookies. If you're going to buy canned fruit, look for brands that are packed in water or natural juice. Better still, forget the can and grab a real piece of fruit. Fruit does have natural sugar, but it also has fiber, which not only increases our sense of satisfaction and fullness, but is also good for digestion. When you're eating fruit, it’s important to eat a variety of colors in fruits as the deeper the color the higher the level of antioxidants and nutrients.
MCore FTS Tip: try to limit bananas to only half if they are large; take advantage of all different types of berries and melons; the former are high in antioxidants and the latter are low cal and good for hydration.