Adios, Sugar...

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff

This post is an installment in our 52 Health Hinges series. Remember, “Small hinges swing big doors.”

Hi there, Sweetheart. It’s time for us to talk about the “S” word. Sugar. You knew this was coming, right?

Excess sugar is detrimental to your health. Are you surprised? Of course not. (If you do need convincing, here are 146 reasons why sugar is bad for your health.)

Despite this, Americans are consuming, on average, more than 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners per year.

Pause for a minute to process this. This equates to 26 teaspoons per day. Last year, the World Health Organization dropped its sugar intake recommendations from 10% of your daily calorie intake to 5%. For an average adult, this works out to be about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar per day.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to less than 6 teaspoons per day for women and less than 9 teaspoons per day for men. Compare those recommendations to the average and you’ll agree that we have a problem!

Here are three reasons why you’re consuming more sugar than you think:

1. It has many aliases. Sugar goes by many names, making it difficult to identify added sugar, even when you read ingredient lists and food labels. Check for ingredients ending in “ose” such as sucrose, fructose (including the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, which also has many aliases), glucose, lactose, maltose, and dextrose. Or check out Dr. Robert Lustig’s book, Sugar Has 56 Names.

Sure, some of these are natural forms of sugar, such as fructose from fruit, lactose from dairy, and maltose from grains, but trouble brews when they’re altered, chemically processed, and added to processed foods and drinks in concentrated form. 

2. You’re drinking it. Packaged and prepared drinks contain way more sugar than a reasonable person would add themselves. Here are some examples:

  • Cola, 12 oz = 40 grams of sugar. Divide by 4 to get teaspoons…that’s 10 teaspoons in one can of cola. Down this and you’ve already exceeded the recommended daily amount. Darn.
  • Lemon-lime soda, no caffeine, 12 oz = 38.3 grams or 9.6 teaspoons. Hmmm, the go-to non-caffeinated soda for kids might not be such a good choice after all.
  • Starbucks caffe latte, 16 oz = 18 grams or 4.5 teaspoons. And that’s before you add any sugar packets.
  • Starbucks flavored latte, 16 oz =  35 grams or 8.75 teaspoons
  • Starbucks chai tea latte, 16 oz = 43 grams or 10.75 teaspoons
  • Red Bull Energy drink, 16 ounces = 49.5 grams or 12.3 teaspoons

While conventional wisdom usually points the finger at caffeine, could I be so bold as to suggest that the addiction to these drinks might actually be with the sugar?

3. Fancy meeting you here. Everyone knows that there is sugar in cookies, candy, donuts…but “healthy” breakfast cereals, tomato sauce, yogurt, salad dressings, and granola bars? Yes, it’s everywhere.

Even when you know sugar is there, there’s likely more than you thought. Would you eat ice cream for breakfast? Let’s compare the sugar content in a strawberry 5.3 oz Chobani nonfat Greek yogurt (16.29 grams) to a half cup of Breyers vanilla ice cream (15.5 grams), and it’s basically the same. Good to know, right?

So what’s a health hinger to do?

Our goal, over time, is to get your sugar consumption within that reasonable, recommended range. Or less. But we’re going to do this the Health Hinge way – to make lasting change, we need to take one step at a time.

This week, I want you to bring awareness to your sugar consumption. Just think about it, acknowledge its presence, and be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. How do you feel before, during, and after eating these sugary foods? Do these foods have a hold on you, or can you easily make a healthier swap? We like to call them lateral shifts — like swapping out soda for sparking mineral water with just a little fresh (unsweetened!) fruit juice.

Good luck, and let me know if you have any “a-ha” moments this week!

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff


Cola was never my weak cream, however, that's another story. And if yogurt isn't much better, what other options are out there for someone with a sweet tooth? 

Hi Vi, honestly, if you love ice cream, allow yourself to have ice cream. At Healthful Elements, we don’t believe in deprivation - it’s not sustainable for the long term. So, assuming your body can handle dairy, allow yourself to have creamy, full-fat ice cream as a treat now and then. I do, and I don’t feel guilty about it because I know that I’m not eating other hidden or excess sugar during the day.

 I’ll talk about some other alternatives to tame a sweet tooth later in the series!

I just found your site - OMG - do I need this information! I am planning a consult but first need to read everything here so I know how to use our time constructively. One question, with regard to sugar: What about honey? What about Stevia?

Hi Annette. Honey and pure stevia extract are great sugar alternatives. Welcome!

Add comment