In 2009, at long last, the AHA (American Heart Association) finally declared war on sugar as the culprit in rising obesity rates. As you probably know, two out of every three Americans are overweight, and one out of every three is obese. Even though most Americans avoid eating dietary fat like it's poison, we're still getting fatter and fatter. Why? To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the sugar, stupid!"
The AHA has been recommending a â€śgeneralâ€ť but non-specific limit on sugar consumption since 2006, but only recently set upper limits on daily sugar consumption. The guidelines for women call for no more than 100 calories per day in the form of sugar, and the guidelines for men are no more than 150 calories per day. This refers to the consumption of sugar thatâ€™s addedto foods and beverages, and not to foods that have naturally occurring sugars.
The new guidelines represent a dramatic change from current daily sugar consumption practices. According to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), itâ€™s estimated that the typical American intake is around 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is about 355 calories or a whopping 255 calories over the new guidelines. Most people, for example, donâ€™t realize that just one can of sugar-sweetened soda adds 130 calories. It doesnâ€™t sound like much, but the cumulative effect quickly adds inches and pounds to your body and increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The problem is that the nutrition labels mandated by the U.S. government do not distinguish between the sugar that occurs naturally in food and the sugar thatâ€™s been added to food by the manufacturer to make it taste better. Whatâ€™s a guy or girl to do? For now, you simply cannot rely on â€śhealthyâ€ť or â€śnaturalâ€ť claims made on the packaging. These words mean nothing; they are just marketing hype. The one and only solution is to look at the ingredients label and see for yourself whatâ€™s in the recipe.
Unfortunately, the ingredients label is usually the smallest, most hard-to-find print on the package. Your job is to put on your glasses, lift flaps, and turn the product this way and that until you find the list. Your next task is to identify the predominant foods in the recipe. The key words here are â€śpredominantâ€ť and â€śfood,â€ť and this is trickier than you might think. Water, for example, is not a food. Herbs and spices are not foods. Chemicals with hard-to-pronounce names may or may not be foods. Who knows? Try to figure out the first four recognizable foods because these are the ingredients that are used the most in the recipe.