Hidden Sugar – It’s Everywhere


Last week I wrote about salt and how much of it is in processed and restaurant food.  For me, it was a real eye-opener. Some meals carry two to three times the normal daily recommended amount of sodium! Now, cutting out the salt is, pardon the pun, a piece of cake for me compared to getting rid of sugar. But I am really trying.

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You’d probably be surprised to learn where sugar hides. February is Heart Health Month, and the American Heart Association recommends that men should not consume more than 9 teaspoons of sugar in a day. This measurement of sugar equals 45g of sugar per day for men. The recommended sugar intake for women is less than that of men. The AHA advises women to limit their intake of sugar to 6 teaspoons of sugar each day. This translates to a daily recommended limit of 30g of sugar.

So, 45g for men, 30g for women. Remember that. Now take a look at how much sugar is in some everyday foods:

  • Chobani peach fat-free yogurt (I’m not picking on Chobani, I’m just using it as an example). One 6-ounce container. 140 calories, no fat. 19g sugar. A little cup of yogurt and you’re nearly at your daily limit.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts small coffee with cream and sugar (their version): 120 calories, 6g of fat, 17g of sugar. Using a sugar substitute? See my note at the bottom.
  • Since breakfast did you in, you decide to have a salad for lunch, and even use the Hidden Valley fat-free ranch dressing you brought in from home.  Look at the back label: the first four ingredients are water, corn syrup, maltodextrin, and sugar. Water, sugar, sugar, sugar. Two tablespoons of the dressing have 3g of sugar – can you limit yourself to 2T? Oh, and maltodextrin – what is it, exactly? According to Wikipedia, Maltodextrin is an oligosaccharide (right) that is used as a food additive. It is produced from starch and is usually found as a white spray-dried powder (yum). Maltodextrin is easily digestible, absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and is commonly used in sodas and candy. And, apparently, salad dressing.
  • Feeling a little tired in the afternoon? Have a Red Bull. One can provides 115 calories, no fat, and 26g of sugar. Or go sugar-free, but read my note at the end of this post.
  • You go out for dinner, because you had a hard day. Again, not picking on any place in particular, but let’s go to Outback Steakhouse. We’re going to share that famous blooming onion thing. Then you’ll have the Sweet Glazed Pork Tenderloin and a dressed baked potato. Total? Over 1,500 calories and about 23g of sugar. Oh, and by the way, the blooming onion serves six.

Now this likely isn’t a typical day, but if it were, you’d have consumed 88 grams of sugar, nearly three times the recommended amount if you’re a woman, twice if you’re a man. And what about kids? Teens? Coca-cola? More Red Bull? Whopper with cheese? Sugar everywhere.

NOTE (this information from the Dr. Oz website): About artificial sweeteners – New research shows that they may actually lead to weight gain, because they make the pancreas release insulin, an important hormone for accumulating body fat. Artificial sweeteners can cause you to go to the bathroom more often. They may cause the muscles in your bladder to become hyperactive – forcing you to urinate more frequently. Even one packet might be enough to cause you to urinate more frequently than normal. This can eventually wear out the bladder, increasing your risk for urinary tract infections and urge incontinence. Recent reports are also linking specific sugar substitutes you eat every day to major digestive problems including diarrhea, cramps, gas and bloating. They are specifically called sugar alcohols, which are calorie-reduced sugar substitutes that include sorbitol and malitol, which are found in “sugar-free” gums, candy and baked goods. As the sweet receptors in your esophagus and stomach are “tricked” by the zero-calorie substitutes, your pancreas is tricked into sending a false spike of insulin that can lead to insulin resistance. This can lead to diabetes. Also, since artificial sweeteners cause your body to crave more food, you can also put on weight, which further increases your risk for diabetes. In addition to diabetes, artificial sweeteners may be contributing to a nationwide epidemic of metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes-inducing insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and too much fat around the waistline.

Another Dash of Salt


 

In my previous post, I wrote about the 920-calorie bacon cheeseburger from Five Guys. No, I didn’t eat it; a friend did. But I’ve had plenty of food from restaurants, and I’m sure you have, too. It’s difficult to make a healthy choice without the information about what you’re eating. Here are some of the “healthy” options I’ve chosen in the past:

The Quesadilla Explosion Salad from Chili’s has 850 calories, 45g of fat (21g saturated), 2,230mg of sodium, and 60g of carbs.  Oh, and their Guiltless Grilled Chicken Pita has just 550 calories and 9g of fat, but 2,110mg of sodium.

Panera’s Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (my favorite) is 470 calories, 25g of fat (4g saturated), 560mg of sodium, and 31g of carbs. It’s a salad! High in salt and carbs for a salad. And no longer will I order the Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup: 310 calories, 1,470mg of sodium, 29g carbs.

I’m not a big fan of the Cheesecake Factory, but I know a lot of my friends are.  Watch out for the Spicy Cashew Chicken. Your dish has 1,810 calories and 4,450mg of sodium. In one serving.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the biggest risk of a high-sodium diet is the effect it has on blood pressure and heart health. Hypertension/high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney failure are some of the long-term effects that can result from long-term, high-sodium intake. In the body, sodium is processed by the kidneys. However,  when a person eats too much sodium, the kidneys cannot process all of it. The excess sodium ends up in the bloodstream. Because the mineral retains water, the volume of blood in the body increases. As a result, the circulatory system has to work harder to pump the blood. Over time, this added strain on the system can result in heart disease and kidney failure.

Since February is Heart Health month, this is good information – not to scare you (well, maybe a little), but just to let you know that knowing what goes into your body is important. I’m learning, too – and as much as I like to go out to eat, I’m going to be much more prudent about my choices.