Do you have a sweet tooth like me? It can be hard to avoid sugar when you are craving something sweet, but I’m here to guide you as a nutrition expert and a sweet tooth expert! Because February is Heart Health month, I am going to focus on how sugar harms the heart.
First things first, the type of sugar that can cause the most havoc on your heart is added sugar. By added sugar, I mean sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing or added at the table. Some of the disguises of added sugar go by the names of High Fructose Corn Syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, brown sugar, raw sugar, syrup, honey, or fruit juice concentrate.
In the past decade, dozens of research studies have been finding a connection between added sugar and heart disease. A 2014 longitudinal study found that people who consume a lot of added sugar are at a much higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day for men. It is SO easy to consumer higher than those recommended amounts.
Here’s how you can measure how much added sugar you are consuming:
1 teaspoon = 4 grams of sugar
This means that women should not have more than 24 grams of added sugar and men should not have more than 36 grams of added sugar.
Here are just a few examples of foods that have a high content of added sugar.
The biggest culprit is soda. In a standard can of soda, you’re looking at 36 grams of added sugar. Ditch soda and you are taking an amazing step toward improving your health!
A standard serving of most yogurts has 18-24 grams of added sugar. Choose plain Greek yogurt for the least amount of added sugar.
A lot of cereals on the market have 15-20 grams of sugar. Look for options that have 5 grams of sugar or less.
Of course, you have other big-time culprits like candy, cookies, cake, any dessert type foods!
But added sugar can show up in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect like bread, salad dressings, soups, and condiments like ketchup.
You can fulfill a sweet tooth without consuming added sugars. Turn to fruit! Fruit has natural sugar and contains plenty of antioxidants. The more colors of fruit you consume, the more antioxidants you are getting!
You can also curb your cravings for sweets by getting a lot of lean protein in your diet (chicken and turkey breast, fish, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, etc.) and some great complex carbohydrates (oats, barley, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, and more).
Avoid added sugar as much as possible and your heart will thank you!