Tips for Avoiding Added Sugars

Added sugars are not the friend of a heart healthy diet.

Added sugars are not the friend of a heart healthy diet. Although they are not harmful to the body, our bodies don’t need sugars to function properly.

Skip the added sugars

Americans are consuming more and more added sugars, contributing to the obesity epidemic. Reducing the amount of added sugars you eat cuts calories, controls your weight and improves your heart health.

Added sugars contribute calories but zero nutrients to food.

There are two types of sugars in American diets: those that occur naturally and those that are added.

Natural sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).

Added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (like putting sugar in your coffee or your cereal).

They include white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, agave and maple syrups plus other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup). The major sources of added sugars are regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks that are not 100 percent fruit juice (like fruitades and fruit punch); dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk); and other grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles). Visit the AHA’s Sugar 101 page for some examples of common foods with added sugars. It’s easy to spot when the ingredients simply say ‘sugar’, but some added sugars hide under other names on food labels:

  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose
  • Syrup (agave, maple, rice)
  • Evaporated cane juice

Unfortunately, you can’t easily tell by looking at the nutrition label if a food product contains added sugars. The line for "sugars" includes both added and natural sugars. Any product that contains milk (such as yogurt, milk or ice cream) or fruit (fresh, dried) contains some natural sugars. Reading the ingredient list on a processed food’s label can tell you if the product contains added sugars, but if the product also contains natural sugars you won’t be able to know the exact amount.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 calories per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men).

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