Thoughtful Parenting: What's the big deal about added sugar?


Let's Go! 5-2-1-0

■ 5 or more fruits and vegetables

■ 2 hours or less recreational screen time

■ 1 hour or more of physical activity

■ 0 sugary drinks

Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 is intended to help families improve healthy eating habits and be more physically active.

— The American Heart Association reports that research has linked high intakes of added sugars to many health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes in children. Sugar can destroy the B vitamins and the minerals magnesium and iron, all of which figure significantly in neurotransmitter formation affecting mood. It also depresses your immune system for as many as five hours after consumption, according to a scientific study by Loma Linda University in California. The study showed that the disease-fighting capacity of the white blood cells was reduced by half.

Children and teens are downing about 16 percent of their daily calories (322 calories) from added sugars. About two-thirds (67 percent) of added sugars come from food with the other one-third (33 percent) coming from beverages. Added sugars include all sugars used as ingredients in prepared and processed foods and beverages, cakes, cookies, muffins, jams, chocolates, ice creams, sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and flavored milks.

Several health organizations, including the American Heart Association, suggest that added sugar should be limited to no more than 6 to 7 percent of your total calories. This does not include naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and dairy products. The recommendation for children is 3 teaspoons per day, for women is 6 teaspoons per day and for men is 9 teaspoons per day. Four grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 gram of sugar equals four calories, so children should eat no more than 12 grams of sugar in their diet each day.

Read food labels to help cut out added sugar

■ Look for sugar aliases such as high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice, cane syrup, confectioner’s sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose and syrup.

■ Be picky about the breakfast cereals you purchase. Cereal has a significant amount of added sugar. Choose cereals with 10 grams of sugar or less per serving.

■ Make sure the juices you purchase are 100 percent fruit juice.

■ Check out different brands or varieties of a product as they may have significantly different quantities of sugar. For example: Quaker Oatmeal to Go Brown Sugar and Cinnamon snack bars have 19 grams of sugar. Kashi granola bars have 5 grams of sugar. The Quaker bar has about 1 1/2 times as much sugar as a child should have in a day.

Barb Parnell is a community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado. She can be reached at 970-819-4110 or LiveWell Northwest Colorado partners with First Impressions of Routt County to ensure young children have access to healthy food and health education materials.

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