Even though many residents of Anamosa and elsewhere grew up in a time when a full sugar bowl was always part of the table setting, we’ve learned that it’s important to cut back.
Whether it’s a recommendation from our health care provider as part of a palliative care strategy, wellness advice from our spouse, or our own healthy insights, we’ve taken steps to have less sugar in our lives. Or at least we should by now.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is always eager to encourage people to look for ways to eat better, whether it’s enjoying more of a certain type of healthier food or reducing amounts of other types of less beneficial items.
With regards to sugar, we’re happy to cheer on efforts of clients who no longer throw in big scoops of extra sugar into their cereal or coffee along with those who opt for an orange after dinner instead of a handful of cookies.
As worthy as these actions are worth celebrating, there’s actually more to good management of sugar besides saying no to the white stuff, including identifying wanted and unwanted sugars in all sorts of foods and drinks.
Seniors should be sensitive to how much sugar they’re ingesting. Too much can cause a variety of negative health conditions including inflammation throughout the body. It can tax the liver, the heart, the pancreas, and other organs.
It can increase the growth of fatty tissue, which can cause a variety of physical lifestyle problems. Obesity can cause a decline in motivation and a lack of exercise, further aggravating pain and increasing the risk of depression.
Seniors are also at high risk of developing diabetes, a disease where blood sugars are imbalanced. The Centers for Disease Control said more than 30 million people have some form of diabetes, and about 25 percent of people over age 65 have it.
People with this need active assistance monitoring and managing blood sugar levels. Too little sugar can cause a variety of problems, including dementia, confusion even death.
This number is also expected to grow, either due to more awareness or part of a larger continuing trend of poor nutrition and poor exercise habits.
Health experts don’t say to avoid all sugar completely, since glucose is an important part of our body’s chemistry, and the lack of glucose in the brain has been seen as a factor in forms of dementia.
Sugar is naturally present in a variety of carbohydrates that are recommended for our daily diets, including fruits, breads, and milk. Carbohydrates also provide fiber, another important item for nutrition.
However, the recommended amount of sugar is often significantly less than the amount we typically consume.
According to the U.S. Department of Health, the ideal amount of daily sugar for an adult is about 12 teaspoons for a 2,000 calorie diet, or 10 percent of our diet. A smaller diet, about 1,200 calories, should include about 6 tablespoons for women and 9 for men.
The average American adult has about 17 teaspoons of sugar, which is about 17 percent of our diet.
Health.gov even breaks down how to figure out how much sugar you’re eating and how much benefit you’re getting out of it: 1 teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams = 16 calories.
One of the challenges of trying to keep an eye on sugar intake is trying to figure out what items have sugar in them.
For instance, soft drinks are flavored with corn syrup, which is worse nutritionally than refined or unrefined sugar, and high fructose corn syrup is even less nutritious than corn syrup. This is essentially corn syrup with extra sugar added.
Other sugary ingredients that may be on food or drink packaging include:
- Invert corn syrup
- Corn sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
Beyond sweets that are expected to have sugar in them, such as ice cream, cookies or cakes, all sorts of preservatives can be found in many types of sweetened yogurt; fruit juices; sweetened milks; certain flavored breads, such as cinnamon; even some types of waffles (which usually end up drenched in syrup.)
People are often surprised that sugar and various sweeteners can be found in even more common items, everything from spaghetti sauces to barbecue sauce.
This list also can include peanut butter, ketchup, sports drinks, protein bars, and many canned soups.
Healthline warns that many items promoted as low fat, “light,” or low sugar actually have other chemicals, preservatives or sweeteners.
If you’re already confused and frustrated, you’re not alone. The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is aware that trying to reduce sugar intake or at least focus more on natural sugars can be an ongoing challenge. We have to do it ourselves!
But we’re happy to share our advice, help find local experts or encourage you to keep at it, even if you slip up once in awhile and sneak a cookie or two!