Heart Month: Sugar and your heart

Added Sugar is a buzz word in nutrition as it is now associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease. Since February is American Heart Month, we will talk about simple strategies to decrease your added sugar intake but first let’s clarify a few things about added sugar.

What’s the difference between added sugar and natural sugars? Naturally occurring sugars are those that are naturally found in foods such as fruits or milk. Added sugar is any sugar that is added to a food for sweetness or as a preservative. Examples of foods that contain added sugars include soda, desserts, energy drinks, ketchup, granola, and flavored yogurt.

Spotting added sugars. It’s important to read food ingredient labels to identify added sugars. There are more than 50 names of added sugars on ingredient labels. Some are more obvious like cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup but others are not as obvious such as barley malt or rice syrup. Click here to access a list of names for added sugar you may come across on a nutrition facts label

How much sugar can I have in a day? The American Heart Association recommends 6 tsp, 24g of added sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons, 36g of added sugar for men.

Tips to cut back on your added sugar intake

  1. When craving something sweet, go for fruit to satisfy the craving.
  2. Compare food labels and choose the product that has less added sugar. Look for an item that has sugar further down in the ingredients list.
  3. Choose water, plain sparkling or fruit infused, or unsweetened beverages in place of sugar sweetened beverages like sodas and sweetened tea.
  4. Gradually decrease the amount of sugar you usually add to foods like oatmeal, coffee, tea, dessert recipes.

By Ivy Mumo, Registered Dietician
Georgetown University

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