America is addicted to sugar. The average American consumes about 20 teaspoons, or 80 grams, of sugar a day. Do you realize how much sugar you are consuming? Beware, it’s hiding in more foods than you might expect. In fact, added sugar is now found in at least 74% of packaged foods.
This article shines a light on some of the most surprisingly sugary foods and provides tips from oral health professionals to help you reduce your sugar intake and take care of your teeth.
Why Foods High in Sugar Are Dangerous
Many Americans are now consuming sugar at unnatural, toxic levels. Added sugars can lead to serious health consequences, including but not limited to oral health consequences, especially if they are consumed regularly or in high levels. In terms of oral health, excessive sugar intake can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and eventually more serious consequences, such as tooth loss. In terms of overall health, a diet high in sugar has been linked to weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, skin problems, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of cancer, liver problems, mental health problems, low energy, and more.
5 Lesser-Known Foods High in Sugar
Some foods high in sugar are more obvious — candy, deserts, soft drinks, energy drinks — while others are more surprising. What we think of as healthy food options are not always as healthy as they seem. For example, several studies have found that many products marketed as “low fat” actually contain more sugar than regular versions of the same foods.
Below are five popular and surprising sources of sugar to keep an eye out for:
- Salad Dressing: Eating salad is healthy, right? Not necessarily. Many salad dressings contain excessive levels of sugar. Some types of dressing, like raspberry vinaigrette, contain up to 7 grams of sugar for just two tablespoons of dressing. Be careful how much you pour on!
- Yogurt: Yogurt is another thing we tend to think of as a nutritious choice — it’s certainly marketed as a so-called healthy snack or way to start the day. But even low-fat yogurts often contain surprising amounts of sugar: up to 47 grams in a single cup! In just one cup, this exceeds the daily suggested limit of sugar. When in doubt, opt for plain or greek yogurt over flavored options.
- Non-Dairy Milks: It’s not just dairy products you need to be careful of when it comes to sugar, non-dairy milks are another, lesser-known culprit. For example, some brands of soy milk contain up to 14 grams of added sugar. If you are looking for a healthier choice, make sure to read the label carefully and select unsweetened or light options.
- Cereals and Granola: Take a closer look at the nutritional facts and you’ll find that 100 grams of many types of
granola contain over 400 calories and up to 6 teaspoons of sugar! Instant oatmeal typically contains high levels of added sugar as well. Even “healthy” cereals can be loaded with sugar, so be careful how you start your mornings.
- Condiments: Some condiments, like ketchup and BBQ sauce, are insanely sugary, so be careful how much you are using and purchase more natural and unsweetened varieties.
These are just a few foods to be wary of if you are trying to limit your sugar intake. In general, be sure to read food labels carefully! And don’t just scan for the word “sugar” — there are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels.
How Sugar Affects Oral Health
What does sugar actually do to your teeth? Sugars you consume act as fuel for harmful oral bacteria which produce acids. The acids destroy your tooth enamel and can create cavities (holes in your teeth) over time. Left unaddressed, cavities can progress to more serious oral health problems, including tooth loss.
So, how can you reduce your sugar intake? Read nutrition facts and ingredients carefully, avoid foods that list sugar as one of the first five ingredients, opt for whole ingredients over packaged foods, and enjoy your favorites in moderation.
Taking care of your oral health is also important. Brush your teeth and visit a dentist regularly to prevent cavities and tooth decay from developing (they only get worse over time!) It is recommended that most adults visit a dentist at least every six months, and even more frequently if they have a diet high in sugar or any other oral health problems.
If you have more questions or concerns about your oral health, our team at Nicholson Family Dental in Albany, Oregon is here to help! Call us at 541-928-6650 or schedule an appointment online today.