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Can a food be “healthy” if it’s high in sugar?

You know there are lots of sugars in sweet foods like cakes, cookies, puddings, pies, and soda. But you may be shocked to learn how much sugar is found in some of the foods you deem to be healthy. What’s the big deal with sugar? It’s nutritionally void and high in calories. Take in too much of these simple carbs and you’ll easily gain weight.

Sugar contains four calories per gram. One teaspoon of sugar is equal to four grams of sugar, so, one teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories. Hence why it’s recommended you eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar or 25 grams of added sugar a day. Most Americans, however, consume twice as much sugar as is recommended for good health.

It’s easy to eat more sugar than you mean to eat. Food packaging and nutrition labels can be tricky. Especially since sugar has so many different names! The next time you read a list of ingredients, remember to look for words that end in “ose,” such as high fructose corn syrup, as well as other common names, which include corn syrup, brown sugar, molasses, fruit juice concentrates, honey, and raw sugar. Both natural sugars (like those found in fruit and milk) and added sugars contribute to your total sugar intake.

Don’t be deceived. Just because a food advertises to be “whole-grain,” “fat-free,” “100-percent juice,” or “high in calcium” doesn’t mean it isn’t high in sugar. Be on your guard and closely examine nutritional labels for the amount of sugar they contain.

Packaged Fruit

Think twice before serving your family canned fruit or individual fruit cups. Generally packaged in heavy or light syrup, even the light syrup varieties are high in sugar. Peaches, pears, mixed fruit, mandarin oranges, and apple sauce all sound healthy, but the added sugars found in the syrup add up quickly. A single serving of any of these can contain as many as 26 grams of sugar.

Cereal

It’s easy to recognize that frosted, chocolate, and super sweet cereals are on the high-sugar offender’s list, but you may not guess that healthy-sounding cereals (those that have oat, bran, or wheat in the cereal name) may be semi-high in sugar. Read the label before assuming it’s low in sugar.

Watch out also for sweetened instant hot cereals. While oatmeal and cream of wheat cereals are healthy and low in sugar, flavored individual packages often aren’t. One envelope may contain up to 16 grams of added sugar.

Beverages

Overlooking the sugar found in what you drink happens to us all, but liquid sugar counts, too! Fruit juices are often extremely high in their sugar content. Just an 8-ounce serving of 100-percent juice may contain up to 36 grams of sugar. Yes, it’s mostly from fruit concentrate, but it’s still sugar! Chocolate and strawberry flavored milks are even worse, coming in at over 50 grams. Even kids’ drinks that advertise 25 percent less sugar still contain 18 grams. Packaged green tea, black tea, and fruit-flavored tea may be high in antioxidants, but the high-sugar content may cancel their health benefits. Beware also the high sugar content of energy drinks, vitamin water, and soda.
Yogurt

Having a bit of yogurt for breakfast or snacks is healthy, right? Yogurt is good for you, but as with all your other favorite foods, watch out for high sugar varieties. Just a 6-ounce serving of many kinds of yogurt contains more than the daily recommended amount of sugar. It’s not just the fruit in yogurt that makes it high in sugar, but yogurt often contains lots of added sugar as well. Be safe and eat plain yogurt with fresh fruit or eat the lite varieties.

Hidden Sugar

Be on your guard against added sugars. It’s one thing if a food is high in natural sugars like fructose (fruit sugars) or lactose (milk sugars), but it’s another when it’s sucrose or high fructose-corn syrup. Read nutritional labels closely and limit the amount of sugar you and your family consume for a healthier, happier life.

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