The Road to a Heart Healthy Diet: Reducing Added Sugars
Note: February is American Heart Month
Sugar in a variety of forms has been a part of our diet for over 2,000 years. It’s hard to believe that an ingredient which plays a number of important functions in food, went from a luxury to a public enemy when eaten in excess. Although sugar can provide more than just sweetness to our foods, such as achieving desired texture, moistness, and other important functions; there is still a need for moderation.
With regard to added sugars and a heart healthy diet, The American Heart Association (AHA) states:
“Although sugars are not harmful to the body, our bodies don’t need sugars to function properly. Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food. Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Reducing the amount of added sugars we eat cuts calories and can help you improve your heart health and control your weight.”
As part of a heart healthy diet, AHA recommends limiting the amount of added sugars consumed per day to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance, which means for most American women, this is no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) per day, and for men no more than 150 calories per day (9 teaspoons).
Source: American Heart Association
How to reduce your intake of added sugars? Here are some simple steps:
Low-calorie sweeteners to the rescue
Replacing sugar with low-calorie sweeteners is a delicious and safe way to reduce your added sugars and your calories. Low-calorie sweeteners such as SPLENDA® Sweeteners deliver a delicious sweet taste and are safe for the entire family. Enjoy them in your favorite recipes. See below for recipe ideas.
Manage your portions
Estimating serving sizes can be challenging for most people. Generally, the size of a single portion can vary depending on the food and/or package. As a dietitian, I usually recommend that you measure each portion in the beginning until you get used to understanding what is a single portion. A simple way to estimate a single portion is by using your very own hand. For example:
- Your fist = 1 cup
- Your palm = 3 ounces
- Your thumb = 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce
- One handful = 1 or 2 ounces (e.g., a snack such as nuts)
Learn to find added sugars on food labels
If you want to learn how to stay within the daily added sugar limits, then you must learn how sugar is listed on a food label and what the health claims around sugar content mean. Here is a list of sugar terms from the American Heart Association, which can help you understand the sugars lingo.
Added sugars come in many forms; here are some of the different names for ingredients that are added sugars. This is not a “forbidden” list regarding sugars in a heart healthy diet, but simply a list to help you know where sugar has been added:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
Lower sugar products have different calorie levels depending on the other ingredients present. Here is a list of health claims around sugar that are commonly found on food labels and what they mean:
- Sugar-Free – less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving
- Reduced Sugar or Less Sugar – at least 25 percent less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety
- No Added Sugars or Without Added Sugars – no sugars or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing
- Low Sugar – not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels
Enjoy delicious recipes that call for less sugar
Here are a few of my favorite recipes that can help you reduce your added sugar intake without giving up your favorite foods:
Click here for more delicious recipes that are reduced in sugar thanks to SPLENDA® Sweeteners.
No matter where you stand on your sugar intake, extensive scientific research demonstrates that the most effective method to achieve a healthy lifestyle and for weight management, is to reduce calorie intake while increasing activity levels. It is not necessary to completely eliminate important nutrients or favorite foods from meal plans.
Here’s to a heart healthy diet in 2018!
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
Sylvia Meléndez Klinger, MS, RD, LDN, CPT is founder of Hispanic Food Communications, Inc., a nutrition and food communications consulting company. A Hispanic native who is a leading expert in cross-cultural Hispanic cuisine as it relates to nutrition and health, Sylvia uses her in-depth culinary and cultural expertise to introduce new strategies for wellness to an increasingly health-conscious Hispanic population. For more than a decade, Sylvia has been a consultant for major food, beverage and pharmaceutical companies and non-profit organizations.