I never thought I'd say it. But the Nanny Police might be on to something...
Earlier this year, the Feds passed a law requiring new nutrition labels on all pre-packaged foods.
Now you'll be better able to see what's hiding in your foods... like added sugars.
It's even more widespread than you think. In fact, one study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 74% of packaged foods purchased in the U.S. contained added sweeteners.
Some surprising foods include salad dressings (71%), 100% fruit juice (66%), and yogurt (61%).
I've warned about the dangers of added sugar for years.
It's one of what I call "white killers."
Sugar, white rice, and white bread increase blood-sugar levels. When you eat these so-called "high glycemic index" foods, your body signals the pancreas to produce extra insulin.
The insulin secreted into the blood stream triggers a host of things – a decrease of magnesium and an increase of sodium in the blood. Insulin also increases inflammatory molecules in the blood.
Insulin even results in fat production. The extra fat leads to high blood sugar and keeps metabolism "stuck" in storage mode. Lots of insulin causes the vessels to oxidize and stiffen... leading to higher blood pressure. Over time, this can cause strokes and heart disease.
Studies show eating lots of sugar lowers your "good" cholesterol (a so-called high-density lipoprotein, HDL). HDL cholesterol inhibits excess levels of harmful fats and "bad" cholesterol (LDL) from sticking to arteries. That keeps your blood flowing easily. Thus, having low levels of HDL increases your risk of heart disease.
Elevated blood glucose also leads to immune system problems, including white blood cell dysfunction and clotting issues.
The average American consumes 355 calories of sugar per day. The American Heart Association recommends women to get less than 100 calories from sugar and men to get less than 150 calories from sugar. New guidelines from the World Health Organization back up this recommendation, too. This is about what you'll find in a can of soda.
Having the addition of "added sugars" on the label sounds like it'll be helpful. But I'm still a bit skeptical. You see, manufacturers are already experts at bending the rules when it comes to food labeling.
According to a new consumer information report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many times it's hard to tell what's really in your food. That's because the laws governing food-label wording are vague.
For example, as the FDA writes, maple flavoring doesn't always come from maple syrup. It might come from maple tree bark or even from an unrelated spice called fenugreek.
And since the regulations aren't clear, they can use the terms "maple," "maple-flavored," and "artificially maple-flavored" all without having any maple syrup in the product.
Do what I do... Avoid sweeteners at all cost. And check how much added sugar is in your food – you might be surprised to find sugar lurking in everything from frozen pizza to canned soup. If I see sugar listed, I put it down.
The same goes for artificial sugar. As we mentioned previously, the science on artificial sweeteners is less than stellar. But they carry their own problems too.
That's why we like to help our sweet tooth by using raw honey as a sweetener. You can also look for natural sweet foods like fruits. You'll still get sugar, but the fiber in the fruit helps to slow the absorption of sugar. And you'll get all the health benefits of fruits, too.
Finally, the key to avoiding sugar... stop overeating.
There are a few ways to stay more mindful when you eat and avoid overeating or overindulging in sugary snacks. Here are a few of our favorites...
Try unplugging. As Harvard's Nutrition Source recommends, simply looking at your meal will help you avoid overeating. Too often we check our phones, look at our computer screens, or watch television while we eat. But when you take in what you're eating and connect to it visually, you eat less.
Avoid emotional eating. Sometimes stress triggers hormones that make us feel hungry even when we aren't. In fact, eating releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin that make us feel better. If you suspect stress causes your snacking, try meditating for a few minutes or going for a walk.
Drink up. Sometimes when we need water, our brain sends us signals similar to hunger. You might actually be dehydrated instead of hungry. Try drinking a glass of water first before reaching for a snack.
Being mindful of what you eat and how much you eat will go a long way to improving your health and well-being. Start today by checking your food labels, cutting out sugar, and watching what you eat.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: Take an exciting tour of a national park right from your computer chair.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
September 29, 2016