Health care reform is in the air. While many people argue over how to improve our health care insurance coverage, we can't forget the issue of increasing costs due to increasing care.
A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the medical costs associated with treating obesity-related conditions may have reached $147 billion last year, up from $74 billion a decade ago. $147 billion dollars spent on preventable conditions.
In light of the enormous health catastrophe of obesity, the American Heart Association has announced a remarkably specific and forceful recommendation: limit added sugar to just 6 teaspoons a day (100 calories) for women and just 9 for men (130 calories). Currently, Americans have about 22 spoonfuls or 350 calories per day of added sugar. These are calories that provide no nutritional benefits and include calories from sugar or corn syrup in sweets, candies, soda and sweetened beverages.
How can you follow this recommendation? No more soda- 8 teaspoons of added sugar in a can of soda. If you substitute soda with a sports drink, you will still be getting 4 teaspoons in 12 ounces. Since soda contributes 33% of the added sugar in our diet, eliminating soda is a great first start. One study addressing pediatric obesity found that just taking soda and sweetened drinks (lemonade, Capri Sun, fruit punch, sports drinks) out of child's diet led to significant weight loss. A glass of sparkling water is a great alternative with 0 spoons of sugar.
But why is the American Heart Association talking about sugar? While obesity develops as a combination of food intake, activity and genetics; increased caloric intake is often associated with a high intake of sweets. A lot of sweetened foods also come packed with "bad" saturated fats (think pastries, store bought cookies). Excessive sugar as well as excessive weight gain can lead to the "metabolic syndrome" which leads to heart disease.
So toss the soda, the lemonade. Stock up on bubbly water (mix with a little bit of 100 % juice or a slice of lime). Throw away the candy, gummy snacks and chip's ahoy. Try some trail mix instead. You still have a few teaspoons to use, so go ahead and have a snack that although it has some added sugar contains vitamins and minerals as well such as frozen yogurt, sorbet or some really good homemade peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip (dark chocolate of course for the heart benefits) cookies (see the recipe in this month's newsletter).