We Need To Confront Our Secret Sugar Problem

Getty ImagesThere's sugar and then there's "added sugar — those extra sweeteners sprinkled into food when it's processed. One sneaky little word signals a secret menu of nutritional no-no's we're prone to ignore — and that's a problem.

According to new research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who eat too much added sugar are more likely to suffer from heart disease.

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The study, released Monday, found that people who consumed more than 21 percent of calories from added sugar doubled their risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who consumed less than 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

The good news: Americans are generally eating less added sugar — the average percentage of daily calories from the sweet stuff has decreased (from 16.8 percent between 1999 and 2004 down to 14.9 percent between 2005 and 2010). And the majority of people do try to abstain, but 10 percent of people still get 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

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However, those numbers aren’t set in stone, warns lead study author Quanhe Yang, PhD, a researcher at the CDC. “The database is updated so frequently that it’s difficult to trust whether these stats are entirely correct,” Yang tells Yahoo Shine.

To complicate matters more, added-sugar guidelines vary and there’s no set standard for how much people should consume. For example, according to the World Health Organization, added sugar should make up less than 10 percent of a person’s total calories, while the Institute of Medicine recommends 25 percent. “A good guide to follow is the ‘2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ which recommends that people limit both their solid fats and total sugar to anywhere between 5 to 15 percent of their total daily calories,” says Yang.

Here’s how much added sugar is in some of your favorite foods:

One slice of whole wheat bread: 2 tsp.

8-oz. container of fruit-flavored yogurt: 7 tsp.

Single 12-oz. can of soda: 10 tsp.

Doughnut = 7 tsp.

Instant oatmeal packet = 3.5 tsp.

Spaghetti sauce, 1 c =  6.5 tsp.

Ketchup, 1 tbs. =  1 tsp.

Energy drink, 8 oz. =  6.5 tsp.

Cinnamon roll with icing =  9 tsp.

If you’re not sure whether a food contains added sugar, check the packaging for keywords such as "high-fructose corn syrup," "dextrose," "white granulated sugar," "raw sugar," or "maltose." And if you can, try these tips to avoid added sugar:

— When cooking, swap white sugar for vanilla, almond, or lemon extract. 
— Instead of eating fruit-flavored yogurt, try plain and sweeten it up with fresh fruit.
— Limit low-fat foods. Oftentimes more sugar is added to compensate for the lack of flavor when fat is removed.
— Drink unsweetened iced tea or flavored seltzer water instead of fruit juice.
— Craving a cookie? Eat a graham cracker, which has less sugar but the same cookie crunch.

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