Consumer Reports exposes hidden sugars

CLEVELAND - Think you don't eat a lot of sugar? Consider this, every day the average American consumes the equivalent of 22 teaspoons of "extra" sugar — sugar that's been added to food and beverages. That's about a half of a cup a day! If you're pretty sure you don't have a sweet tooth, Consumer Reports says you may be in for a surprise.

Sodas, candy and cookies are the usual sugary suspects. But Consumer Reports says even if you don't buy a lot of these, you still could be taking in too much sugar. A high intake of sugar comes with some serious health risks. The American Heart Association says it increases the risk of high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels.

So how much sugar is too much? You want to try to keep the added sugar to no more than six teaspoons a day for women and nine teaspoons for men, but that can be easier said than done.

Consider how much sugar is in some supermarket staples. A half-cup serving of Prego's Traditional Italian Sauce contains the equivalent of 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. And a six-ounce container of Dannon's All-Natural Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt contains just 6 teaspoons of sugar! So does a half-cup serving of Mott's Original Apple Sauce.

Even a serving of Vlasic Sweet Midgets pickles has almost 2 teaspoons and that's just 3 little pickles! So it's important to check the nutrition label for the amount of sugar. A teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to about 4 grams, so that can help give you a good estimate.

Also look under the ingredients. You probably recognize sucrose, glucose and high fructose corn syrup as added sugar. But it's listed under many names, like fruit juice concentrate, malt syrup and evaporated cane juice to name a few.

So be on the lookout for sugar.  And when a sweet craving hits go for nutritious, healthier options like fruit or low-fat chocolate milk.

Consumer Reports says eliminating sugary beverages, like soda, bottled teas, and juice drinks, will cut your sugar intake significantly. Some sodas can have as much as 16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce bottle! Instead, try seltzer with a splash of fruit juice, unsweetened teas, or a smoothie made with fresh fruit and plain nonfat yogurt.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website.

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