If you're trying to lose weight, there's one thing in your kitchen you should dump - added sugar. The average American eats the equivalent of 20 teaspoons a day of added sugars, which adds 320 calories or more to his or her diet. Some of those calories come from sweetened beverages, like soda, and some come from foods.
Removing foods – and beverages – that contain added sugar from your kitchen can make reaching your weight loss goals easier.
What are added sugars?
Added sugars are those that are put into food or drink during processing or preparation. You'll often see these in processed snack foods and bakery goods and even in products like yogurt.
Foods such as fruits contain naturally occurring sugar, but they also provide important nutrients such as vitamins, protein and fiber. In addition, they affect your body differently than added sugars.
How your body reacts to added sugars
Refined sugars and carbohydrates are quickly absorbed by your body and raise your blood sugar quickly. Your pancreas then releases insulin in an effort to move the sugar (glucose) from your blood and into your cells, where it's used for energy. Your blood sugar level will drop quickly, and you may feel tired and hungry again in just an hour or two. You'll be tempted to reach for another sugary food, adding even more empty calories to your diet, and the cycle may repeat itself.
In contrast, the additional nutrients that are present in fruits and other foods with naturally occurring sugars slow down the process, so you won't be hungry again as quickly.
Hidden sources of added sugar
Some foods with a lot of added sugar, such as cookies or regular sodas, are obvious. But others may not be.
The following foods are usually high in sugar:
Ketchup and other condiments
How to identify added sugars on food labels
To find out if a food has added sugar, look for these words on the label:
- Agave syrup
- Cane juice and cane syrup
- Corn sweetener and corn syrup
- Words that end in "-ose," such as dextrose, lactose or fructose
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Malt syrup
It make take some time to cut down on the added sugars you consume if you're used to eating a lot of these foods. If you need to cut back rather than doing a clean sweep, start by eliminating it for breakfast. That way, you won't be starting the cycle of eating added sugars, releasing insulin and getting hungry again with the very first meal of the day.