Happy Pi day everyone! I am a self professed math freak so geeky stuff like this brings me joy. I usually celebrate this occasion by baking a pi pie (I did not create the pie pictured in this post but you can click on it to see its origin). This got me thinking about one of my nutrition/fertility goals which is to cut down on sugar.
First I would like to give an update on one of my previous posts that discussed my decision to give up all artificial sugar and soda. This was a hard one but I am so glad I did it. I had given up soda before but always craved it and I think it was because I was still consuming other sources of artificial sweetener such as Crystal Light. Giving both artificial sweetener and soda did cause me to go through some unpleasant withdraw symptoms such as headaches and moodiness (I had actually started this process before my previous post). I am thrilled to say that not only have I given both up but I do not crave them like I used to. I never thought I would say this but now I actually crave water. I did drink water in the past when I also drank soda but I would just do so since it is healthy. A few days ago I went out to eat with some friends who ordered soda and I did not have any urge to order one which still feels kind of crazy.
Now I am focused on cutting down on sugar. Initially, I had no idea how much sugar one person should have in a day so I did some research. Numbers do vary of course, but the USDA recommends that women on a 1600 calorie diet limit intake to 24 grams of added sugar. This does not include naturally occurring sugar in foods such as fruit. I know it is important to also monitor your intake of naturally occurring sugar but in this post I am focusing on added sugar.
There are some foods and drinks that I expect to have high levels of sugar. For example, a can of Coke has 33 grams, a Krispy Kreme doughnut has 10 grams, and a regular sized snickers bar has 30 grams of sugar (I obtain my nutrition information from Fooducate). In other foods, sugar is much sneakier. A 10 oz glass of Tropicana orange juice has 28 grams, a carton of Yoplait original low fat strawberry yogurt has 26 grams, and a serving of Prego pasta sauce has 10 grams. On a side note, I also noticed that reduced fat/reduced calorie etc foods have lots of sugar. Early on in my quest to change my eating habits I decided to avoid any food that has been modified to make it reduced calorie, sugar, fat, etc. I am not focusing on these foods since I avoid them but I found an interesting article that reveals that these type of food often have (sometimes disturbing) higher sugar levels than their original counterparts.
Unfortunately, identifying added sugar is not as easy looking for the word ‘sugar’ on nutrition labels. Sugar has many personalities and it can be difficult to identify. The US Department of Agriculture and Harvard School of Public Health have identified some (not all) of the code words for sugar as follows:
agave nectar, anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane juice, confectioner’s powdered sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, fruit nectar, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar), pancake syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar, sugar cane juice, syrup white granulated sugar
I also rely on food labels to tell me which ingredients are most abundant (ingredients are listed in order of their amount) but this may also be misleading. Manufacturers can divide their added sugar into different types (such as maltose, dextrose, etc) so each ‘type’ appears further down the list making it appear that the food has less added sugar (if consumers even know that these terms actually mean sugar).
Overall, I feel like I know a lot more about sugar than when I began this journey to eat healthier. Even so, I am still confused. It is frustrating that food manufacturers are allowed to mislead consumers and make it difficult to make healthy choices. If anyone has any feedback, advice, or tips to help cut down my sugar intake, I would very much appreciate it 🙂 As always, thank you for your interest in my little blog. – Jennie