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6 Surprising Sources of Sugar

Posted: 01/22/2012 9:46 am

By Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., Contributing Writer for EatingWell Magazine.

Most of us eat too much sugar. On average, Americans consume 475 calories of added sugars every day (that's 30 teaspoons). Compare this with the American Heart Association's recommendation that American women limit their added sugars to no more than 100 calories (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day and men consume no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons) daily.

If you're trying to cut back on added sugars in your diet, you've probably already tackled the obvious sources. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, energy and sports drinks along with fruit drinks account for almost half of Americans' added-sugars consumption. Desserts like cakes, cookies, pies and doughnuts as well as ice cream and frozen yogurt are among the top sources of added sugars in our diets too.

But what about the less-obvious sources of added sugars? Where do they come from and how can you cut back? It's difficult to know how much added sugars are in most processed foods because food manufacturers aren't required to disclose the amount in their products on the Nutrition Facts Panel. But, unless there is fruit and/or milk (which contain naturally occurring sugars, fructose and lactose, respectively) in the product, you can safely assume the amount of sugar listed on the label is added.

Here are a few healthy foods that may have added sugars lurking in them.

Tomato-Based Pasta Sauces
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One leading brand of sauce delivers 15 grams of sugar (almost 4 teaspoons) per 1/2-cup serving -- and in reality, most of us eat closer to a cup of sauce with our pasta. The same brand lists sugar as the third ingredient after tomato puree and tomato juice. I'm not advocating cutting tomato sauce from your diet, though: It counts as a vegetable serving and is packed with lycopene, a potent antioxidant associated with lower risk of prostate and breast cancers. Look for a sauce where any type of sugar (corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc.) is either not listed at all or is near the end of the ingredient list. One lower-sugar choice is Mario Batali's Tomato Basil Sauce, which has 3 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup (only 12 calories or 3/4 teaspoon).

More from EatingWell:
6 Foods That Sound Healthy But Aren't
6 Super-Healthy Ingredients to Add to Your Smoothies
Delicious Recipes for Low-Sugar Desserts

Flickr photo by Mallory Dash

How do you limit the added sugars in your diet?

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.

Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., is an EatingWell advisor and Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont. Dr. Johnson is Vice Chair of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Science Board.


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