6 Hidden Sugar Mines in Your Diet

You may think you're eating healthier, but mounds of sugar lurk in surprising places

by Maureen Callahan • Next Avenue
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Photograph: Shutterstock.com

With little bits of sweetener lurking in all kinds of unlikely foods — including pizza, bread, peanut butter, soup and cold cuts — we’re becoming, consciously or not, a nation of sugar hounds.

Americans eat, on average, as much as 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day — nearly half a cup. Public health officials are alarmed, and rightly so. This is not a concern for diabetics alone. Diets with excess sugar can raise your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, increase your risk of heart disease and potentially evolve into an addiction that’s hard to shake. Also, some researchers now believe that diets high in sugar are actually toxic to the heart, the liver and one's overall health, a case made most prominently in this recent 60 Minutes segment.

(MORE: Milk Alternatives: Are They Really Better for You, or Is It Hype?)

The American Heart Association recommends that adult women consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugars per day. For men, the limit is nine teaspoons. When scanning food nutrition labels, you can read 4 grams of sugar as equal to about one teaspoon. But be aware that labels typically lump natural sugars (fruit, grains) together with added sugars (corn syrup, sucrose), so check a product's ingredient list closely to get a better sense of the sugar it carries in all its various forms: granulated sugar, brown sugar, molasses, agave nectar, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup and anything else ending in "ose." People can debate the health benefits of honey or natural sweeteners over refined white table sugar, but the bottom line is that to the body, sugar is sugar. And too much is too much. (As for sugar substitutes, they're technically chemicals that mimic the taste of sugar. As with the real stuff, moderation is key.)

Here’s a look at six surprising sources of sugar in your diet, as well as tips on cutting back.

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Photo courtesy of  alekleks /Shutterstock.com

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