Eating too much sugar is simply not good for you. Excessive sugar intake can negatively affect your body in several ways, and it can contribute to a wide variety of ailments including liver disease, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Even though most of us are well aware of the damaging effects of sugar, attempting to limit the amount of sugar in your diet is easier said than done, especially in light of the many different aliases that sugar currently assumes on food labels: crystalline fructose, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, etc. As you work on trying to reduce sugar intake, check out this list of common foods that you may not be aware contain surprising amounts of sugar.
1. Yogurt - One serving of the average flavored yogurt can contain as much as 30 grams of sugar. Keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon, which means that by the time you've finished off a single-serving container of flavored yogurt, you've consumed the equivalent of more than 7 teaspoons of sugar. To curb your sugar intake when eating yogurt, try to avoid the low-fat or non-fat flavored varieties, as they contain more sugar than full fat plain yogurt. Not a fan of plain yogurt? Add some chopped fruit, berries or a teaspoon of honey!
2. Fruit Juice, Sports Drinks and Prepackaged Smoothies - One 8-oz serving of orange juice can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar - as much as the average carbonated soft drink. And that's the all-natural stuff. There's some debate regarding fruit juice sugars, as to whether or not they produce the same effects in your body as regular sugar, but suffice it to say that it's probably not a good idea to guzzle down fruit juice in large quantities every day. If you are having juice, make sure there's no added sugar and that it's 100% juice.
Sports drinks are also pretty heavy in the sugar department, with the average serving containing roughly 5 teaspoons of sugar. Although people use these drinks for fluid replenishment after workouts, many are unaware that the sugar contained in these drinks actually dehydrates your body; for this reason, electrolyte enhanced water is often your best bet for rehydration after an intense workout.
Prepackaged smoothies are often advertised as being made from natural fruits, but more often than not they can be loaded down with added sugars as well. The average pre-packaged smoothie contains anywhere between 18 to 29 grams of sugar (4.5 to 7 teaspoons) per serving, which according to the American Heart Association is roughly 75% of the maximum daily amount allowable (between 6 to 9 teaspoons). Also, don't forget to check the label - chances are that smoothie bottle holds two whole servings.
3. Salad Dressing - Most of us rely on salad dressing to keep our salads from tasting bland, but many of the most popular bottled dressings supply quite a bit of sugar along with the added flavor. For example, a two-tablespoon serving of Thousand Island dressing contains a whopping six grams of sugar. Unfortunately, the fat-free versions of the most popular salad dressing flavors carry additional sugar. The good news is that salad dressings are so easy to make yourself from ingredients you probably already have on hand. Search the Internet for recipes where you can control the sugar. If you're dining out, try to choose a balsamic vinaigrette (roughly 1 to 3 grams of sugar per serving), or even olive oil (no sugar).
4. Spaghetti Sauce - Just one cup of many jarred spaghetti sauces contain the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar. This can easily add up when you're making your favorite pasta dishes. Fortunately, several major spaghetti sauce manufacturers have created low-sugar versions of their products that are comparable in flavor to their regular sauces. You can opt for these low-sugar sauces, or try to create homemade versions with natural ingredients, keeping a close watch on the amount of sugar you put into the recipe.
5. Bread - Widely considered to be one of the core staples of the American diet, bread contains more sugar than you might think. While some sugar is naturally formed within bread during the baking process, many manufacturers of processed breads add a little extra in as well, to the tune of 3 grams per slice. Not only does bread contain sugar, but it also metabolizes as sugar (blood glucose) in the body due to its high carbohydrate content. One way to curb your sugar intake from bread is to choose organic breads made from natural whole grains such as flaxseed, spelt or millet or bake your own and don't add any extra sugar. Better yet, try reducing the amount of bread and other carbs like pasta in your diet!
Save your sweet tooth for real indulgences. Switch to lower-sugar versions of everyday food whenever possible. You should also avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners such as saccharine, sucralose (which is processed using chlorine!) and aspartame, all of which have adverse and even toxic effects on the body. Opt instead for natural, unrefined sweeteners such as stevia, real maple syrup, organic honey or coconut sugar. Avoiding processed, prepackaged foods (e.g., frozen dinners, etc.) is another major way to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. But probably the best advice to maintain a low-sugar diet is to always check the nutrition labels of the foods you eat for that sneaky sugar!