If you turned on the TV yesterday, you were probably bombarded with news reports touting a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that shows Americans are eating entirely too much sugar.
If you didn’t turn on the TV yesterday, $5 says you either don’t have a TV or the opposable thumbs to turn it on.
According to the report, which was the headline feature on every 24-hour news station during my morning workout, a whopping 71.4 percent of U.S. adults get more than the recommended 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugars in foods and drinks. And surprise surprise, an elevated sugar intake is closely correlated with cardiovascular disease and, you guessed it, death. You know it always ends in something sexy like death or celebrity rehab if the top journalists in the world are using their unparalleled access to the American public to broadcast it on repeat.
As I watched identical news segments about the report on NBC and CBS while I searched in vain and irony for the channel airing Cupcake Wars, I couldn’t help but disregard the warning as something that doesn’t really apply to me. I don’t drink sugary sodas. I don’t keep Oreos in the house. I only add Splenda to my oatmeal and soda water to my vodka, and I couldn’t even tell you the last time I purchased a candy bar. Stolen one from a child? That’s another story.
I don’t even drink fancy, sugar-laden coffee drinks. A regular cup of joe with almond milk, or maybe the occasional skim latte, is plenty for me. Sure, this fat-free latte from the Upper East Side may be the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen, but it’s still cloyingly, adorably sugar-free.
In my mind, the “Americans eat too much sugar” story is a story about a different kind of America than the one I live in: the kind of America that supports Duck Dynasty, thinks Gushers are a vegetable and pours Mountain Dew over its Fruit Loops.
Given my daily kale intake and infrequent donut consumption, I figured there was no way that TV segment on elevated sugar intake was meant for health-conscious, cookie-avoiding, water-swigging viewers like me.
But I thought I’d check my daily food log on myfitnesspal just in case. You know, in order to celebrate my superior nutritional choices and give myself a good ol’ pat on the corn-syrup-less back.
And what do you know?
My daily sugar intake exceeds the recommended amount at least twofold, and most days, by much, much more.
I have to step back and apologize here, Mountain Dew enthusiasts. Here I was acting all high and mighty given my soda-free lifestyle, when really, I’ve been bathing in the sweet stuff just like the rest of you.
At first glance, I couldn’t figure out how it was possible I’m taking in 70 to 100 grams of sugar on average every day vs. the recommended 30 to 50 grams for my body and lifestyle. On Tuesday, a day in which I cooked all my meals myself and limited my caloric intake to 1,400, when it came to sugar, I somehow managed to throw back a whopping 149 grams. A spoon full of sugar helps more sugary things go down, apparently.
To be fair, a large percentage of my sugar consumption is tied to fresh fruits and whole grains and low-fat dairy — the “natural” kind of sugar that isn’t the scary added stuff the study was warning about. Also, I may have indulged in the free office snack room Tuesday with a bag of 100-calorie fudge stripe cookies, pushing my counts over the top.
But beyond that, it seems added sugars are still sneaking into my diet with me none the wiser. Take, for example, by daily fruit-on-the-bottom Chobani fat-free yogurt. I eat it for the high protein and low calorie count, but I finally took a second to read the sugar section of the nutrition label, and its 16 grams – or about half what I’m supposed to eat in an entire day – vs. 4 grams for plain. The single-serving coconut waters I drink after a particularly hard workout? Another 16 grams. I never beat Number Munchers, but I can see how this adds up.
The truth is, I think I do eat healthier than 80 percent of Americans, and I’m not really sure I’m willing to give up my last few indulgences in an effort to further curb my sugar intake. But I’m hoping at least keeping sugar on the brain as I make culinary decisions should help me be a little more mindful of my problem.
In fact, in four short months, my homegirl Kat and I will be gearing up once more for the Governor’s Ball music festival, and while I’m generally down for helping out my neighbors, when Andre 3000 asks me to lend him some sugar, I’m think I’m going to have to politely decline.
Is sugar something you eat in moderation? What are your tricks for keeping your intake down, especially when the easy things to cut out like soda and poptarts and sugar cubes are already long gone?