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What You Can Do to Change Your Eating & Reduce Your Cholesterol - 3

What You Can Change in Your Eating To Reduce Your Cholesterol: Part 3

By: Samantha McCarthy MS, RD/LDN


In my final tip of our heart healthy series, I want to discuss one of my favorite topics: added sugars. If I had to make just one suggestion for how anyone can improve their diets, it would be to cut back on added sugars. Not only will this help control your cholesterol levels, it will also lower your risk of diabetes, lower your weight, and lead to healthier and less processed foods.


According to the American Heart Association, men should limit their added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons per day, which is equivalent to 36 grams of sugar or 150 calories. Women should limit sugar to 6 teaspoons per day, or 24 grams, 100 calories. To put that into perspective, the average American diet is about 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, an extra 350 calories from sugar alone.


An added sugar is defined as any sugar that is added during or after processing. It is not naturally occuring like the sugar in fruits and milk products. Added sugars come in many forms which makes it difficult to spot them on labels. Here are some common added sugar ingredients:

  • Agave nectar

  • Evaporated cane juice

  • Malt syrup

  • Brown sugar

  • Fructose

  • Maple syrup

  • Cane crystals

  • Fruit juice concentrates

  • Molasses

  • Cane sugar

  • Raw sugar

  • Corn sweetener

  • High-fructose corn syrup

  • Sucrose

  • Corn syrup

  • Honey

  • Syrup

  • Crystalline fructose

  • Invert sugar

  • Dextrose

  • Maltose

This is a shortened list, but if you search for added sugars online, you will hundreds of different names that added sugar can go by.


To identify whether a food has added sugar or not, you need to look at the ingredients. Look for the words above and other words that seem similar to sugar. On the nutrition facts label, the total grams of sugar listed may not be all added sugars. It could be naturally occurring sugars as well. For example, dried cranberries have 26 grams of sugar per cup. Some of that sugar is natural, right from the cranberry. If you look at the ingredients on the package, you will see that sugar is one of the ingredients, so part of that 26 grams is also added sugar.

To be a savvy consumer, start reading not just the front of the package, but the ingredients as well. You will be surprised how many products have sugar added into them. Some common foods include:

  • Sodas, juice, iced teas, sports drinks

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Ice Cream

  • Flavored yogurts and milk

  • Salad Dressings

  • Condiments (ketchup, BBQ sauce, marinades, hot sauce, teriyaki)

  • Crackers

  • Cookies

  • Glazed/Marinated meats

  • Bakery goods

  • Candy and chocolate

  • Processed meats (honey turkey, sweet sausage)

  • Pre-Made Sauces

  • Tomato sauce

  • Dried and canned fruits

  • Cereals

  • Flavored oatmeal

  • Bread

  • Flavored coffee creamers

  • .and many, many more!


In summary, good cholesterol levels are not just about fats. You need to cut back on saturated and trans fats, increase intake of healthy unsaturated fats, and minimize added sugar intake. And of course, get adequate exercise.


*Sources:

  1. American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp#.WpATi4PwYdV

  2. Harvard School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/

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