Every few years, Americans find a new nutritional evil. First, fat (the saturated kind found in meat and dairy products) was bad. Then, the Atkins diet finally found popularity and claimed carbohydrates (the ones in pasta and breads) packed on the pounds. Now, the culprit is sugar — filled with calories and no nutrients.
The truth is, says Breann Ellis, a registered dietitian, “we can’t point our finger at sugar as the sole cause of obesity in our society.” Daily overindulgence in saturated fat, carbohydrates, or sugar is the problem. But yes, admits Ellis, the owner of Absolute Wellness, we all need less sugar. Here’s how to avoid a diet so sweet its long-term health effects can leave us feeling bitter.
“Get back to eating from the farm,” Ellis says. “These are the foods in the most minimally processed state — whole fruits, vegetables, and grains.” Eat less packaged food.
“All these processed foods have sugar added to them,” Ellis says. Check out the ingredient label: high-fructose corn syrup (used in 40 percent of all food products), fruit-juice concentrate, sucrose, honey. “Those all are red flags,” Ellis says. “Usually if it ends in ‘ose,’ it’s a sugar.”
If the aforementioned ingredients are listed near the top, there’s a high amount of sugar in that food item. “We want sugar as far down on the list as we can get it,” Ellis says, “or completely absent.”
Usual and Unusual Suspects
The usual suspects with heavy amounts of sugar: soft drinks, candies, and desserts. Less well-known items, says Ellis, are fruit juice, pasta sauce, and some yogurts.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with change. Slowly try to minimize your sugar intake in each meal. Don’t replace regular sugar with artificial sweeteners — it’s still sugar. “We are just bombarded with sweets all the time,” says Ellis, and therefore, a high “sweet equity” means the body can overindulge in sugary desserts without a natural filter to warn: This is too dang sweet.