Sugar. The processed, refined, sticky, syrupy sugars that are added to certain foods and beverages for flavor and preservation. The new dietary guidelines for Americans states that added sugars should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories, and that your primary focus should be whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and certain dairy products.
Of course, the sugar you should try to limit doesn't include naturally occurring sugars. Please continue to eat apples, mangoes and bananas as much as your heart desires to balance out your daily diet. While they still contain sugar, it is naturally occurring sugar that your body can use as energy.
The dietary guidelines have been published every five years since the year 1980, and the 2016 report laid out a healthy eating pattern that limits saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and added sugars. The new guidelines now set specific caps to the amount of those foods we should consume, which it previously did not specify.
So where can you cut back on added sugars? Soda pop drinks and juice drinks. For the American diet, these types of drinks are the number one source of calories and sugars.
But sugar is hiding everywhere: in ketchup, in pasta sauces, in canned fruit, in your morning granola bar and in dried fruit. Even a cup of yogurt has 15 grams of sugar. It is hard to pinpoint where the sugars are when they're sneaking by under weird names. Even the sweeteners that seem healthy (agave syrup, rice syrup and organic sugar) are still just sugars: extra empty calories. A sugar by any other name is still just as sweet...
Skinny Mom Resident Mom, Jennifer Holt, advises easy sugar swaps for various whole foods. She wrote in "The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar" that you could, "for example, exchange high-sugar processed foods for whole foods. Think simple and when in doubt go with plain. Why does all our food have to be sweet anyway? Swap peanut butter for nuts. Swap fruit-flavored yogurt to plain yogurt flavored with real, whole fruit, such as strawberries or blueberries. Lose the sweetened and flavored milks. Just stick with plain."
Whole foods will always be better than packaged foods with ingredient lists that are miles long. Dr. Ethan Gregory explains the way sugars work on our bodies. "Think of any fat in our body as stored energy. When our diets include a high ratio of fats and sugars (that become fats) to protein, we might hold more fat storage in our body."
Because the American diet has largely been composed of refined and processed sugars in past years, obesity now affects more than a third of adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Remember, the Food and Drug Administration now requires the phasing out of all trans fats from the industry. Now it's up to you to phase processed sugars out of your diet. Start by being conscious about the kinds of food you put into your body: Are you cooking it straight from a package, or starting with fresh ingredients? Are you adding sugar packets to your morning coffee, or taking it black?
Excessive sugar consumption creates cycles of intense cravings and impairs memory and learning skills, according to a 2012 study done by researchers at UCLA.
Don't let sugar sabotage your diet, your ability to learn and retain information, or your ability to make choices. Make the healthy choice: Stick to whole foods with naturally occurring sugars.