February Is American Heart Month
Mandi Knowles, RDN, LDN, South Beach Diet Dietitian
(Fort Washington, PA, Thursday, February 15, 2018) – February is American Heart Month, and cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death, with more than 17.3 million deaths each year.
The American Heart Association recommends that no more than half of daily discretionary calories comes from added sugars—that’s about six teaspoons or 100 calories for women, nine teaspoons or 150 calories for men. Americans on average get about 16 percent of their daily calories from added sugars, according to an FDA report. But the USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend less than 1/3 of that.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee cited sugar consumption as one of America’s gravest health concerns. It recommends that sugar make up no more than 10 percent of daily calorie intake.
But Americans eat way more of the sweet stuff than that. The CDC reports that the average American eats between 13 and 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day – which is equal to roughly 230 calories for women, 335 for men. And, Americans drink on average of 53 gallons of soda a year.
Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Processed sugars sweeten the flavor of food, but they add empty calories and can disrupt your metabolism, impeding your progress to your weight loss goal and posing serious health risks.
So, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Is sugar really what’s making us fat? And if so, how do we cut back on it? Here are some tips on how to be mindful of your intake:
- Shop on the Perimeter of the Grocery Store. That’s where you’ll find vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat and seafood, most of which is free of added sugar.
- Read Food Labels. Labels on packaged foods list the ingredients in order of volume. The higher up you see sugar listed, the more sugar that’s included in that food.
- Learn Sugar’s Other Names. A general rule of thumb is anything ending in “-ose” is a sugar.
- Buy Unsweetened Foods. Look for food labels that say the food is unsweetened. Not “naturally sweetened,” but unsweetened.
- Make Sugar Swaps. Swap soda for iced tea and save 31 grams of sugar, non-fat flavored yogurt for Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries and save 19 grams of sugar.