09/02/2011 08:19 am ET Updated Nov 02, 2011

10 Sneaky Sugar Culprits

By Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D. for

Sugar seems to be inescapable. It isn’t only found where we expect it to be (cookies, candy, cakes), but also in places that surprise us. Regardless of the source, sugar is a beauty buster. Perhaps the biggest.

Several studies have shown that excess sugar in the diet contributes to increased risk of heart disease, increased triglycerides, diabetes, weight gain and malnutrition.

Scary? Si! But what’s most frightening to beauty buffs is that it also wreaks havoc on your skin. The more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to have skin that is dull and wrinkly. Researchers think this occurs due to a process called glycation, in which sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins to form something called AGEs, or advanced glycation end products. AGEs damage collagen and elastin, two structural proteins directly related to how great... or, in this case, not so great, your skin is.

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The two lists provided here outline the main sources of sugar in the American diet. If either of these lists resembles a daily diary of food choices for you, it may be the perfect time to kick the sugar habit! After all, you don’t want a bunch of AGEs waging war against your skin, right?

Top 10 sugar foods
  • Cola
  • Sweetened cereals
  • White bread
  • Candy
  • Granola/energy Bars -- up to 25 grams for one bar
  • Juice and other sweetened beverages
  • Bakery Items (muffins, cookies, etc)
  • Frozen yogurt and ice cream
  • Canned or dried fruit
  • Smoothies -- can have up to 60g in a 16 ounce serving
Top 10 foods that surprisingly have a lot of sugar
  • Frozen entrées
  • Low-fat or fat-free salad dressing
  • Crackers
  • Ketchup and BBQ sauce
  • Soy milk
  • Tomato sauce
  • Flavored yogurts
  • Fat-free “diet” products
  • Instant flavored oatmeal
  • Specialty coffee drinks -- large

Whether you want to kick the habit completely or just modify your choices, here are a few tips to avoid the sugar high and beauty low.

Distract your taste buds
Using flavoring like cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla powder on your oatmeal or coffee, or lemon, grapefruit or mint in your water, can make the sugar reduction process a little more exciting. Also, go to town on any and all roasted vegetables. The roasting process brings out their natural sweetness and will satisfy your need for sweet.

Just walk it off
Got a sugar craving? Studies show that you’re much less likely to crave sweet foods after exercise. Even just a 30 minute brisk walk would suppress the craving and allow you burn calories to boot!

A girl has got to have standards Next time you’re grocery shopping, use the following as a reference point for your purchases:
  • Main dishes and desserts should contain no more than 4 grams of added sugar per serving
  • Side dishes should contain no more than 2 grams of added sugars per serving

In total, you want to keep your added sugar to less than 24 grams, or 6 teaspoons per day and going even lower than that will improve your health and beauty significantly more!

Keep it real -- Using a sugar substitute might create a “bigger” problem
Recent studies suggest that the use of calorie-free sweeteners may contribute to over-eating and inevitable weight gain. Slowly reduce your sugar intake and you will learn to appreciate sweetness, rather than using sweetener and “trying to get your lunch for free.”