SWEET PROBLEM: Added Sugar Can Harm Heart

We know we’ll find sugar in cookies, cakes and soda, but it’s also hiding in foods we may otherwise think are healthy.

Eating too much sugar can cause you to gain weight, which can lead to a host of other diseases. Doctors warn too much of the sweet treat can harm your health, even if you aren’t overweight.

You’ll find sugar in a jelly-filled doughnut. Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian Julie Gieseman says, “There’s 19 teaspoons of sugar.”

And, it’s no surprise sugar is in soda. Gieseman points out, “In this one bottle, there’s 22 teaspoons of sugar.”

Added sugar is also in many juices. She says, “An 8 ounce serving of this cranberry juice has the same number of grams of sugar as these two Swiss cake rolls.”

You’ll also find added sugar in many spaghetti sauces. She says, “You could be getting three teaspoons of sugar in some spaghetti sauce or about three teaspoons in barbeque sauces. So, in processed foods, a lot of times there are added sugars we don’t even think about.”

Gieseman says Americans typically get 15% of their daily calories from sugar added to foods and beverages. And, people are starting to realize the danger of consuming too much. She says, “It’s coming to light because we’re taking in so much more sugar and we’re seeing it linked to so much more obesity.”

Cutting back on sugar will do more than just help your waistline. Doctors say too much can harm your heart health. UnityPoint Cardiologist Eduardo Antezano says, “It can happen in non-obese people.”

Dr. Antezano says researchers are learning sugar affects the heart in a variety of ways. A study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine shows consuming more than 20 percent of your calories in added sugars raises your risk of heart disease and chance of dying from it. Dr. Antezano says, “We cannot have an unlimited amount of sugars.”

No federal guidelines offer specific limits for sugar like there are for salt and fat. But, the World Health Organization and American Heart Association recommend getting less than 10% of your calories from added sugar. Dr. Antezano says, “We need a lot more education of the public so they have better choice of what they want to eat.”

Gieseman says, “And by checking the label to see if there’s added sugar in there.” Gieseman says you have to look for sugar or words that end in “ose,” especially on the labels of foods like cereal, peanut butter and yogurt.

She also recommends drinking water instead of soft drinks, sports drinks or juice. And, fill up on whole foods like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Gieseman says, “Generally, if you can go minimal or no added sugars for a couple weeks, people find they don’t even crave it near as much.”

The study also recommends federal guidelines and regulatory strategies be established to help people control sugar intake.

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