Did you know that sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet?
In fact, over the past 50 years, consumption of sugary drinks has increased 500 percent. In just the past 10 years, sugary beverages have surpassed milk for the largest category of caloric intake in children. Sugar-sweetened drinks account for 10 to 15 percent of the average child's total daily calories.
Because children consume a large amount of calories from sugar-sweetened beverages, it is no surprise that that about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese - nearly triple the rate in 1963. In recent years, research has made the connection between sugar-sweetened beverages and the increase in cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and overall healthcare costs. Physicians are now seeing children with what were once considered adult diseases, like hypertension and high cholesterol, due to being at an unhealthy weight.
Sugar comes from many different items that we eat - even fruits, vegetables, grains and milk all have natural sugars. Other sugars that are added to foods during processing may increase a person's risk of heart disease. These added sugars are found in soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, baked goods, candy and ice cream, among other items. They can even make their way into seemingly "healthy" beverages such as sports drinks, fruit drinks, and flavored milks.
Consider this: a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar. The recommended sugar intake for adult women is no more than 100 calories a day (6 teaspoons) and no more than 150 calories a day (9 teaspoons) for adult men. Children should consume as little added sugar as possible. Due to children's various ages, sizes and nutrition needs, there is no specific amount of teaspoons to limit. One can of soda contains more sugar than any child or adult should consume in a day.
Need another perspective?
- An 8-ounce sweet tea has nearly 8 teaspoons of sugar - the equivalent of about 7 or 8 cookies.
- A fruit-flavored juice in a 20-ounce bottle has the same amount of sugar as two 7-ounce canisters of whipped cream.
- 13.7-ounce bottled coffee or a 16-ounce energy drink contains the sugar equivalent of 6 glazed doughnuts.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars in all the foods that people eat. Switching to low- and no-calorie beverages like water and fat-free or low-fat milk from full-calorie soft drinks is a good place to start. Try some of these tips for other ways of eliminating excess sugar:
- Reduce the amount of sugar you add to beverages like tea, coffee and milk. Syrups and mixes for flavored milk can contain a lot of sugar.
- Make your own naturally flavored water. Add fresh sliced fruit, vegetables, and herbs to ice water. Citrus, berries or cucumbers and mint are a few refreshing ideas.
- If you like the bubbles of soda, give sparkling water a try. It comes in many different flavors, just be sure to check the label to ensure you are getting one that is free of calories, sodium and artificial sweeteners.
Sugary beverages can make you feel sluggish, but hydrating with water can increase energy levels making it easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Drinking water also provides many important benefits for improving overall health, including regulating body temperature, cushioning joints and other sensitive areas, and eliminating wastes.