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Step Away From The Sugar Bowl and No One Gets Hurt

Last month, in what was viewed as a pretty shocking move, the American Heart Association not only connected heart disease with the intake of sugar but also made specific recommendations in terms of how much. AHA Announcement

“Most American women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day; most men, no more than 150 calories. That’s about 6 teaspoons of added sugars a day for women and 9 for men. The 2001-2004 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) database showed the average intake of added sugars for all Americans was 22.2 teaspoons per day or about 355 calories….Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet. A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar.”

The US sugar industry’s response was actually what you would expect from an industry lobbying group:
US Sugar Assn.

“The Sugar Association is very disappointed that a premier health organization such as the American Heart Association (AHA) would issue a scientific statement titled “Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health” without a higher standard of evidence to support its contentions and therefore mislead the average consumer….Every major systematic review of the body of scientific evidence exonerates sugar as the cause of any lifestyle disease, including heart disease and obesity. In 2002, after its 3-year comprehensive review, the expert panel assembled by the Food and Nutrition Board within the Institute of Medicine at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences stated publicly that the body of scientific evidence did not support the establishment of an upper level (UL) for total or added sugars intake based on data available for dental caries, behavior, cancer, risk of obesity and risk of hyperlipidemia…”

So, we know what side they’re on. But I digress.

One of the things about the AHA’s announcement that I think is a little confusing for consumers is the whole dependence on teaspoons of sugar as a measurement that supposedly consumers can use. When was the last time you picked up anything, turned it over for the nutritional information and found ‘teaspoons of sugar”?

Right. Never. That is not how the items are measured and put out there. The measurement that is done is in grams.

So, today, Aunt Toby is going to talk about grams, teaspoons, and how to convert one to another. Print out this chart, tape it to a 3×5 card and stick it into your wallet. As a matter of fact, print out this chart multiple times – and also stick those cards into cookbooks, recipe card files or however you do your cooking thing. And by the way, in general white and brown sugar is basically the same.

Sugar:
1 cup……………..48 teaspoons………………192 grams
½ cup……………..24 teaspoons………………96 grams
1/3 cup…………..16 teaspoons……………..64 grams
……………………….1 teaspoon………………..4 grams

Honey:
1 Tablespoon……3 teaspoons……………………16 grams

Molasses:
………………………….2 teaspoons…………………..5.86 grams

The reason I’m putting this out there is that getting our arms around that limit of 6 teaspoons of sugar a day (9 if you are male) is a little bit tough if you are looking at printed nutritional items. Here are a few to get you started.

Item………………………..What’s printed on the pkg……………what that translates into
12 oz. Can of coke…………….40.5 grams of sugar………………………10 teaspoons
1 4.3 oz. Hershey bar…………….24 grams of sugar………………………..6 teaspoons
½ cup, vegetarian baked beans…14 grams of sugar………………….…3.5 teaspoons
1 Tbl. Ketchup………………………..4 grams of sugar…………………………..1 teaspoon

So, as you can see, eating commercially prepared products, whether they are canned, baked or whatever will add up rather quickly to being over the new limit on added sugar in one’s diet. We won’t even discuss activities such as the number of teaspoons of sugar that people put into coffee or on cereal.

Better to eat non commercially prepared items?

Ah, but baking and making your own have issues too – but that has to do with more than serving size. For example, commercially prepared cranberry sauce has 16 grams of sugar in a quarter cup serving, which translates into 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving. The recipe on a bag of Ocean Spray fresh cranberries calls for a cup of sugar, which translates into 22 grams of sugar in a quarter cup serving – over 5 teaspoons. So, making your own according to their recipe will not save you on sugar.

On the other hand, I have made cranberry sauce by only using half the amount of sugar called for (and probably could have cut it back to 1/3 cup) and adding a cup of frozen blueberries. The sauce gelled up extremely well and tasted wonderfully. With half the sugar used, a serving has 11 grams of sugar, or fewer than 4 teaspoons of sugar in a serving. If I cut the recipe back to 1/3 of a cup of sugar, a serving would have less than 8 grams or fewer than 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Again, thinking about what we are eating during the day is always a good exercise in terms of capturing information about what nutritional content of the food we eat actually has – and what items we would like to take in fewer of.

(sugar bowl photo courtesy of britmum)

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One Comment

  1. bruce says:

    Toby, about the ‘step away from sugar’ posting; here is a site that you might find useful:
    http://www.pickyourown.org/canning_without_sugar.htm

    Since I’ve come to find I have a peach tree and wanting to avoid sugar, i did a search for canning without sugar and found it.
    Salud.

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