Most of us grossly underestimate the amount of sugar we're getting in our daily diets. The reason? Because added sugar sneaks into many foods under different aliases.
Food manufacturers know that we love sugar. So it should come as no surprise that 75 percent of all packaged foods contain added sugars -- even so-called "healthy" options like yogurts, salad dressings, cereals and snack bars.
Read More: How to Read a Food Label
One of the first steps to limiting sugars is by becoming a smart label reader. Savvy label readers know that just because the word sugar isn't listed doesn't mean it isn't in there. One way to spot sugar is by looking for ingredients that end in "ose": glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, galactose, maltose and sucrose. Sugar can be masquerading behind close to 100 different names — here are just a few “aliases” to look out for:
How Much Sugar Is Too Much?
Knowing how much you're consuming is the first step. The second step is knowing how much is too much. There are guidelines, but they aren't well known: The American Heart Association recommends that men get no more than nine and women get no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day.
Read More: Do You Know How Much Sugar You're Eating?
Added Sugars vs. Naturally Occurring
The AHA's recommended limits are just for added sugar, not naturally occurring sugars. Added sugar is the kind that's added to foods during processing or that we add (like sugar to our coffee). Although better than processed or added sugars, natural sugars can spike your blood sugar in a similar way as added sugars. But here are two ways to reduce the blood sugar spike:
1. Go for fiber-rich choices. Fiber helps to keep your blood sugar level and keeps you satiated longer. Because whole fruit has fiber, it's is a better choice than fruit juice.
2. Go for choices with protein or healthy fat. Dairy products like yogurt contain a natural sugar called lactose, but because there's also protein and often-healthy fat -- studies show full-fat yogurt is better than the low-fat versions -- the natural sugars in yogurt won't spike your blood sugar as high.
Readers -- How do you keep track of the amount of sugar you're consuming? Do you check food labels when you go grocery shopping? Did you know that sugar goes under so many names? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Sara Vance is a nutritionist and author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan. A regular guest on local San Diego television stations, Sara also offers consultations, corporate nutrition, school programs and online courses.