The hidden ingredient which could be wreaking havoc on your health

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Gaining weight or having a hard time shedding pounds? Do you feel you eat pretty consciously yet you're still not reaching your health goals? You may want to consider the amount of sugar you're consuming daily. Many advertised "health foods" tend to be full of hidden sugar, which causes a number of health issues!

A longterm increased consumption of sugar doesn't just add to our waistlines, it can also cause some pretty serious health complications. High sugar intake is linked to diseases including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, Alzheimer's, and premature aging (And let's be honest, we all want to delay wrinkles setting in!). Sadly, sugar is considered to be the most addictive substances on the planet. Try quitting - you'll understand. 

So how much should you consume per day? The American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
  • Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)

To give some perspective, one can of soda has about 39 grams or just over 9 teaspoons of sugar! That means that just one soda will set you over the limit here! Yet the average American consumes 82 grams or 19.5 teaspoons per day! No wonder more than a third of our country suffers from obesity!

I always thought of myself as a pretty enlightened consumer when it came to knowing what exactly I was eating. I've read food labels since I was a teenager. But to be completely honest, I was mostly checking to make sure foods were gluten free and not full of chemicals or "food-like" ingredients. Turns out, I was completely skipping over the fact that sugar seems to be in most of the things I was eating!

It was during my time in acupuncture school when I was receiving a treatment in the school clinic, that a fellow student asked what my sugar intake was like. He thought that perhaps some of the imbalances going on in my body could be resolved my decreasing my sugar intake. He said to me "believe it or not, sugar is found in just about everything." At that time I thought, "I think I'd know if I was over-consuming sugar." Typical response from someone in the health field right? We always think we know everything. Needless to say, I went home and started to assess the foods I was consuming day to day. Sure enough, I was finding sugar everywhere! In my almond milk, marinara sauce, salad dressings, protein bars, you name it! This was the beginning of a totally new way of thinking for me.

I quickly started to realize that there were many other names for sugar, which is the very reason I was missing it.  I suggest reading labels on food packaging to determine whether or not there is sugar added. Unfortunately, you're unlikely to find the word "sugar" in the ingredients list. There are over 60 different names for sugar! Some of the more common names you'll find on labels are:

  • Cane juice
  • Corn syrup/High fructose corn syrup
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose (anything with '-ose' behind it!)
  • Fruit juice/Fruit juice concentrate
  • Granulated sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Rice syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Evaporated cane juice

Some foods that are typically high in sugar include cereals, sauces/salad dressings, soups, granola bars, breads and juices (I suggest avoiding fruit juices all together if you can). Just about anything that is prepackaged and more highly processed is more likely to have sugar in it, not to mention other ingredients that I'm amazed pass as edible. It's never a bad idea to consume more whole foods. You can easily accomplish this by avoiding the aisles in the center of the grocery store and sticking to the produce and meat departments. When you can recognize a food in its original form - you're doing it right! And I promise, your body will thank you!