Sugar: Not So Sweet

If you're looking to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, you may want to start by cutting back on that sweet stuff we all love so much. Americans are eating more than twice the recommended amount of added sugar each day.

But, a lot of the sugar we're getting isn't from the obvious things. There are a lot of hidden sugars in foods and drinks we don't often think about. In this Newschannel 6 exclusive Lindsey Rogers is looking at the not-so-sweet side of sugar.

She's talking with experts about how swallowing too much of it can have damaging effects on your body, what this growing concern is doing to our kids and some easy ways to cut back on your sugar intake.

Experts recommend men eat no more than ten teaspoons of added sugar each day. Women are only supposed to be eating no more than six to seven teaspoons.  But, the average American is actually consuming about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day, and the extra sweetener means extra weight for many Texomans.

"There are 15 calories per teaspoon of sugar so we're getting close to 350 extra calories from just plain sugar in our diets every day," Registered Dietician Jill King said.

That's the equivalent of scarfing down a chocolate bar and guzzling two cans of soda. Which are among the biggest culprits along with other sweetened beverages.

"It's our colas and Gatorade and power drinks that are supposed to be so healthy. They're adding tons of sugar and our kids and adults who are going from Cokes to all of our energy drinks, there's not a bit of difference, it's still table of sugar," King said.

King is a registered dietician. She says those fancy coffee drinks we like to sip on in the morning to wake up are no better than sodas.

"With Starbucks and special coffees, you are adding gobs of sugar and fat with no nutrition, and people are consuming these as their breakfast," King said.

But, the sweet stuff also turns up in some unlikely places such as ketchup, salad dressing, mayonnaise, peanut butter, bread and pizza.

"Our intake of added sugars has just exponentially increased over the past 20-30 years. First of all, you look at portion size. Sugar provides no nutritional value and so we're just getting gobs of calories with no nutrition added to it," King said.

So, what is this doing to our bodies?  The biggest concern is obesity, which can lead to several complications later in life.

"First and foremost, cardiovascular disease. That could be a myriad of things, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack and everything associated with cardiovascular disease," King said.

That also leads to an increased risk for diabetes. Tooth decay which is common in kids- is another problem associated with excessive amounts of sugar.

"What are parents giving their children in bottles? They're giving them sweetened tea, soft drinks, things that shouldn't cross that child's mouth until they are much much older. So, strong risk for decay in children as well as risk for weight gain and obesity," King said.

King said it's important to look at the label because added sweeteners are not always listed as sugar in the ingredients.

"Some things you'll see on the list along with sugar are sucrose, corn sweetener, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, honey," She said.

It's all these added sugars, also known as caloric sweeteners, that are not so sweet for our bodies. They are added to foods at the table or during processing or preparation and have calories, but few or no nutrients.

Some foods have sugars naturally present in them that are good for us.

"Milk per cup has about 18 grams of carbs. Every last bit of the carbs are sugars, but it's lactose. It's the way the milk comes out of the utters. So you're not going to change a thing about that. So if you don't eat sugars, you're going to avoid milk and you're going to avoid fruits. So, you're going to effectively eliminate two very healthy food groups," King said.

We compared a piece of fruit and raisins to some fruit jam. They had the same amount of teaspoons of sugar, but you're getting more nutrients from the fruit and raisins.

"So, you have to differentiate added sugar versus what came as a part of that food," King said.

Sometimes, the things you think are marketed as a healthier option may be packed full of just as many empty calories as the foods your feeding your kids.

"You'd think Honey Nut Cheerios is a lot healthier than Fruit Loops and you would think the Nutri Grain for sure is healthier, but when you look at it, it's the same amount of added sugar. We say added because we really don't have any fruit in our Nutri Grain. So, when you think you're doing great, lets compare lets look. Some of the breakfast foods are the worst culprits because you think you're doing so well," King said.

One easy thing you can do that will make a big difference in how much sugar you're consuming is cutting back the regular soda.

"Get away from regular soft drinks and go to diet drinks. When you go from regular soft drinks to the same ounces of a diet, you're cutting back a huge amount of calories. For example, a 12 ounce of Coke has about 140 calories. Diet has 0," King said, "Some people can just change their soft drinks from the regular to diet and potentially loose one or two pounds a week and not change their food intake."

King also suggests watching how many carbs you're eating and using sugar alternatives like Splenda and Truvia. Even though the sugar substitute found in artificial sweeteners, Aspirtame, has been surrounded by controversy with many believing the compound carries with it several health risks. King still recommends most people use it. She says it's approved by the FDA and we know it has fewer calories than sugar.

Here's a list of other "sugars" that may appear on food labels:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice Syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylose