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Seniors-Beware of Hidden Sugar

Seniors-Beware of  Hidden Sugar

There's no question that the holidays are high season for sweets. From brownies to fruitcake, treats are virtually inescapable this time of year. These sugar-heavy goodies are in plain sight, and we're all aware that overindulging is unhealthy.

What people often aren't aware of, however, is the fact many foods that don't fall into the sweet-treat category, actually are high in sugar and thus equally unhealthy as your favorite Christmas cookies.

According to the World Health Organization, people shouldn't consume more than 100 calories (which equals six teaspoons) of added sugar per day. The average American, however, actually consumes almost four times that amount. A sugar-heavy diet can lead to a host of health problems, including cognitive disorders, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, and obesity. That's why ATRIO Health Plans is spotlighting the dangers of hidden sugar.

Become a Sugar Sleuth

As the phrase "hidden sugar" implies, this type of sugar frequently is found in foods you wouldn't suspect. Further compounding this problem, manufacturers aren't required to list if sugar in the product is naturally occurring (such as in fruits, whole grains, dairy, rice, and starchy vegetables like peas, corn, beans, and sweet potatoes) or if it's added during food processing.

As a result, nutritionists recommend reading the nutrition facts section on food labels, keeping an eye out for words associated with added sugar, such as:

-agave -brown sugar -corn syrup

-dextrose -fruit juice from concentrate -fructose

-glucose -honey -maltose

-malt sugar -sucrose -syrup

Also, be on the lookout for words that can be misleading, including “sugar-free” and “reduced sugar.” Here's what these terms actually mean:

  • Sugar-Free–Less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Reduced Sugar or Less Sugar–At least 25% less sugar per serving compared to a standard serving size of the original product.
  • No Added Sugars or Without Added Sugars–No sugar is added during processing, but naturally-occurring sugar may be present.

Sugar Watchlist

Many food items contain small amounts of hidden sugar, but — because Americans consume them on a regular basis — that hidden sugar can add up to an unhealthy amount. Following is a list of condiments, beverages, and foods that fall into this category. You don't have to delete these items entirely, but you should be mindful of their use:

-barbecue sauce -bread and rolls -cereal (cold)

-dried fruit -energy and sports drinks -fruit juice

-fruit spreads -granola bars -instant oatmeal

-ketchup -marinade -pasta

-peanut butter -salad dressing -yogurt

One of the most effective means of managing your sugar intake is to prepare as many meals as possible using fresh versus packaged ingredients. When that's not possible, be picky about the convenience foods you purchase. Always carefully review the label's nutrition facts, and opt for those items containing the least added sugar. The more discerning you are, the healthier you're likely to be.