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Believe it or not, the average American eats 66 pounds of added sugar every year. Sixty-six pounds! You might be familiar with the more ubiquitous names for added sugar that appear on ingredients lists: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, maltose; but the more obscure muscovado, carob syrup and sorghum syrup are among the 60+ names added sugar goes by.

“When you’re diabetic, especially, it can be hard to cut down on your added sugar consumption when you don’t even know you’re eating it,” said Jila Kaberi-Otarod, M.D., a physician at the Geisinger Center for Nutrition and Weight Management.

So here are a few suggestions for why you should replace the sugar-laden foods masquerading as healthy with fresh, unprocessed alternatives:

1. Cereals and other breakfast products

While many breakfast cereals and bars proudly display whole grain, high in vitamin xyz, naturally flavored, etc., on their packaging, they’re also likely high in sugar. Some cereals are as much as 40 percent sugar by weight.

Instead: Stick to unadulterated whole grains such as oatmeal, buckwheat, brown rice, barley, millet, rice bran and quinoa. These foods are all lower on the glycemic index, which means they help you keep your blood sugar levels from spiking. They’re also good sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.

2. Dried or canned fruit

Dried fruit, due to its lack of water content, typically contains more than 50 percent sugar. The heating process used to dry fruit can also reduce some of the fruit’s nutrient content.

“Even if it doesn’t have added sugars or other ingredients, the high concentration of sugar in dried fruit can pose a threat to people with diabetes,” said Dr. Kaberi-Otarod. “But if they watch their portion sizes, dried fruit can easily fit into their diets.”

Instead: Fresh fruit has high water content, less sugar and less calories, so you can eat more of it while avoiding severe blood sugar spikes. For example, one small box of raisins equals about 129 calories with 25 grams of sugar, while one cup of grapes is only 62 calories with 15 grams of sugar. The fiber in fresh fruit helps keep you feeling full, unlike dried fruit, which has no fiber.

Fruit that comes in a can or plastic container can be just as healthy as fresh, but check the labels to make sure there aren’t any added sugars.

3. Sauces, dressings and other condiments

One cup of tomato sauce might contain about 10 grams of sugar, equal to a few chocolate chip cookies. An average serving of French dressing has about 2.6 grams of sugar per tablespoon, which isn’t bad if you can actually restrict yourself to one tablespoon. An average bottle of ketchup has 3.7 grams of sugar per tablespoon.

“Many of the most popular condiments are also high in sodium,” said Dr. Kaberi-Otarod, “and too much sodium can contribute to heart attacks or strokes in people living with diabetes.”

Instead: You might have a hard time finding unprocessed equivalents of your favorite condiments, but no-sugar options such as hummus and oil and vinegar will help you stay under the recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day for diabetics. You can also try making homemade versions of condiments using only fresh, unprocessed ingredients and no salt.
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