Cut down on sugar to protect your heart

It’s probably time to take a good look at our sugar intakes. Sugar has been a big part of our diets for many years now and we haven’t always been thinking about it enough. During these years, it has become hidden in nearly all of our processed foods and our taste buds have become quite used to its pleasing qualities. We are learning more about it now and the potential health problems it has been contributing to for many years. According to a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, high sugar intake was associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality. The findings were dose dependent. In other words, the more sugar consumed, the higher the risk for CVD mortality. Christiana Care’s Dr. Omar Khan talks more about the risks of sugar intake in his recent radio interview.

We use the term sugar to cover the calorie containing sweeteners, including white, brown and raw sugars, cane juice, cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses and rice syrup. Added sugar is found in many processed foods not just in sugar-sweetened beverages and candy. It is found in breads, condiments, peanut butter, granola bars, cereals, yogurt, and sauces.

The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons) of added sugars daily or and women consume no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) of added sugars. As you can see below, 6 teaspoons can be consumed rather quickly!

Food or Drink Amt. of Sugar
Soda, 12 oz. can 10 tsp.
Salad Dressing, 2 tbs. 1 tsp.
Sweetened Yogurt, 6 oz. 5 tsp.
Granola Bar, 1 1 tsp.
Sports Drink, 16.9 oz. bottle 7 tsp.
Peanut Butter, 2 tbs. 1/2 tsp.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, 1 packet 3 tsp.

Note: for dairy products, there will always be some sugar listed on the label as lactose is technically a sugar, we just don’t count it as an added sugar.

In my experience, I’ve found that we are able to train our taste buds. Yes, it is possible to wean from the need for sweet taste. After a period of time consuming the unsweetened versions of these foods, the sweetened foods will taste different and maybe even bad.

When you’re looking for low-sugar food alternatives, try:

  • Seltzer water with some lemon or lime if you enjoy carbonation.
  • Plain yogurt instead of flavored, with a little fruit for sweetness.
  • Peanut butter without added sugar.
  • Plain old-fashioned oats, cooked with some apple, walnuts (optional) and/or cinnamon.
  • Water instead of sports drinks. Sports drinks aren’t needed for regular exercise, only for vigorous and long workouts on hot days when a lot of sweating is happening.