A diet with excess sugar can raise your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, increase your risk of heart disease and potentially evolve into an addiction that is hard to shake. While we can avoid the direct application of sugar in our coffee or tea, there are many hidden sources of sugar that we may not even be aware of, but which are actually toxic to the heart, the liver and one's overall health. Here are six surprising sources of sugar in your diet, as well as ways on cutting back on them.
Salad Dressing: Food companies stir in more than a teaspoon of sugar into each sprinkling of vinaigrettes and other salad dressings that we use on our greens. Use a quarter-cup of dressing, and you’re sweetening your salad with a full tablespoon of sugar. Devoted to light or fat-free dressings? Count on finding lots of sugar in those as well. First, read the labels better and seek out salad dressings with 0 to 2 grams of sugar per serving. Or just buy good quality oils and vinegars and make the easiest, tastiest dressing on the planet: vinaigrette.
Cereals: You already know that Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs and other childhood favorites carry too much sugar for your adult palate, not to mention the kids'. But, healthier cereals filled with whole grains, vitamins and antioxidants are also filled with sugar. These cereals come complete with nine types of sugar, including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey and sugar. Add them all up, and the cereal carries 5 more grams of sugar per serving. Stick with simple cereals — plain, whole-grain flakes, circles or squares that have four to five grams of sugar, or less, per serving. To make your breakfast bowl sweet, add in moderation some raisins or dried cranberries. Or just top your cereal with fresh fruits that are naturally low in sugar, like berries, apples and peaches.
Flavored Yogurts: Plain, low-fat yogurts are nutritional powerhouses, rich in calcium and high-quality protein. But flavored and fruit-yogurts contain more sugar than fruit and can negate your healthy goals. Just opt for plain reduced-fat or Greek yogurt and add cut-up fresh fruit or unsweetened frozen fruits. You can also drizzle your dish with a half-teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. That will add two to three grams of sugar, which is still far less than those flavored yogurts provide.
Snack Bars: Nothing beats the convenience of a granola bar for on-the-go snacking. The trouble is that many bars are just as sweet and almost as nutrient-poor as candy bars. You should stick with bars whose labels show just four to five grams of sugar per serving. But it is just as easy and cheaper to grab a few tablespoons of mixed nuts and an apple, or to carry a single-serve pouch of pistachios and a fresh peach.