HALLIE EPHRON: So in the latest nutrition news, it turns out "added sugars" can kill you. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed survey data from 1999-2010 and found that the 20% of people whose intake of sugar is highest were twice(!) as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as the 20% with the lowest sugar intake.
Now I read this feeling pretty sanguine. I drink my coffee and tea unsweetened, never drink soda; candy and cake and pie are just an occasional treat.
Then one morning I'm eating my unsugared bowl of Raisin Bran, touted on the box "heart healthy" (they added a sprinkle of flax seeds). I happen to read the NUTRITION FACTS. And there it is, my little breakfast bowl contains 18 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams a day. Yikes!
Keep in mind: 1 teaspoon of sugar has four grams. So it's as if someone dumped FOUR AND A HALF TEASPOONS of sugar in my cereal bowl.
Or maybe not - because food labels don't distinguish between (bad for you!) added sugars and the (not so bad for you) sugars occur naturally in products (like the raisins in the bran.)
Still, I start going through my cabinets.
- Cranberry juice ("no sugar added"): 28 grams of sugar in an 8-ounce glass
- My go-to dessert, a 4-ounce ice cream sandwich: 16 grams of sugar
- A slice of whole grain bread has just a few grams, but peanut butter (3 grams in 2 T) and raspberry jam (a whopping 13 grams in 1T) are loaded. I really love raspberry jam.
So are you paying attention to this latest nutrition news, or have you been numbed by wave after wave of warnings about what to avoid eating. Cutting down the sugar in your diet -- piece of cake or not?
LUCY BURDETTE: I think it's smart to read the studies as they come out, because then we are AWARE of what we're consuming and where we can make tweaks. Exactly what you showed us Hallie!
So look at your cereal box and see how many grams of sugar in a serving, and then compare to others you might choose. (I bought a box of Barbara's Honest O's this week--1 gram of sugar--yay!) Fruit juice and soda are killers though--probably should be on the occasional treats list. I'd rather consume my sugar in a homemade cookie:)
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Every day of my life is a battle to keep the 9-year-old kiddo from consuming his own weight in sugar. (I jest, but I do wonder what he’d do left in a bakery or ice cream parlour on his own?) Yes, even avoiding the obvious sodas and juice, it’s a nightmare. Since he’s active (fencing, basketball), there’s no weight issue, but I worry about his overall health!
I can’t eradicate sugar completely for him or for us, but I shop and cook so there’s plenty of fresh, unprocessed stuff in the house. And if there’s a cookie, it will be homemade and have raisins and oatmeal to balance out the sugar.
Don’t even get me started on salt…
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've been on a low-sugar regime since I was a teenager (diagnosed as hypoglycemic) so have always been careful about avoiding sugar, but as careful as I am, Hallie's post was a real wake-up call.
My half-cup of "healthy" granola in the morning has 10 grams! And if I go with whole wheat toast or a whole wheat crumpet, the sugar is not bad, but, oh, like Hallie with her raspberry, I love my cherry jam. That's not to mention the organic, 2% milk I put in my tea and on my cereal, which adds another few grams. And that's just breakfast! I'm checking out Lucy's cereal... And going back to fruit only jam for toast...
Susan, I was very sugar-conscious with my daughter when she was growing up, and it is tough. We were the only house that never had soft drinks, or processed snacks, and where juice was served in tiny portions, if at all. I think it was worth it in the long term, as she was hardly ever ill and grew up to be both beautiful and healthy. She's also a very good cook, but neither one of us makes sweets, not even cookies.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm the biggest sugar junkie in my house, I'm embarrassed to say. The "25 grams of sugar" news made me roll my eyes a bit - have you ever tried to keep track of how many products have fructose and sucrose in them? I swear, fifty percent of food by weight in the United States is comprised of corn syrup. Not to mention the sugar content of alcohol. They're taking my glass of wine over my dead body.
That being said, I've tried to raise the kids with limited sugar - soda as a special treat, homemade cookies rather than boxed, Cheerios and bagels instead of Sugar Sugaries. And I'm not sweating the new recommendation too much. I've lived long enough to see bran be proclaimed as the savior, then not-so-hot; for eggs to be killers, now okay for you; and for "eat-no-fats" to become "eat-no-carbs."
Moderation in all things.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I hardly ever eat sugar. I am really careful about it. I do have sugar in my AM coffee, but not in the afternoon. Otherwise, really, as little as possible. No jam, no candy, no sweetened anything. I missed it at first--I don't at all, now.
Sure, I'll have an occasional bite or three of something, that can't hurt. And a Twizzler or two on Halloween, I mean, that is somewhat required. But I have no sweet tooth.
And those food studies always amuse me. They ALWAYS change. Remember when you could die from peanut butter? And now they;re saying eggs are fine. They must have gotten the same PR person who is suddenly pushing kale.
However. I'm with you, Susan. Not giving up the glass of wine.
RHYS BOWEN: I grew up in England where sugar is one of the four food groups. So many English kids live on candy that half the population winds up with false teeth... or that may have changed by now. But when my kids were growing up they had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches almost every day, ice cream as treats, but never sodas. Soda was something not known in our house. Although they did get orange juice, another sugar no-no.
These days we have dessert when company comes or my granddaughters are visiting. I have Wheatabix or oatmeal for breakfast with fresh fruit, or tomatoes on sourdough toast (almost no sugar). I do like a small teaspoon full in my tea and coffee and we really don't eat many processed foods. But my glass of wine or John's beer with dinner both have sugar in them.
Our family motto is Inter Utrumque tene. Steer a middle course. I choose to abide by that. Eat healthily, small meals and the occasional treat. I expect they'll come up with another study next year that says everyone needs ten spoons of sugar a day!
HALLIE: That wouldn't surprise me, Rhys, because the other food recent food news is that regular old butter isn't all that bad for you after all.
So are you trying to cut down on sugar? Wouldn't it be nice if labels told us how how much sugar in a product is the kind we're supposed to strictly limit. Desperately needing to know: is honey ok? Because I really love honey with butter on my biscuits. And like Julia, I'm not giving up my glass of wine.