From Austria to Zimbabwe and more than 43 countries in between, sweet soda (Frucade! GoGo!) is the drink of choice. But here in North America, we’ve taken it to a new level: Canadians down 27 gallons of syrupy liquids per person per year; Mexicans drink 38.5 gallons; and Americans gulp more soda and sweet beverages than in any other country — 45 gallons!
Added sugar makes up almost 15 percent of the calories in an average North American diet. That takes a big toll: Tracking more than 12,000 Americans for 14 years, researchers found that folks who consumed the most added sugar were twice as likely to die of heart disease. No surprise there!
So if you want to take steps toward a sweeter future, reduce — even eliminate — added sugar and sugar syrups from your diet. (It’ll also sweeten the economy by reducing health-care costs.) And you’ll improve your heart health, brain power and sex life.
♦ Read the labels and say “no” to sweetened beverages and packaged foods. One bottle of peach iced tea packs up to 50 grams of added sugar. A fat-free lemon yogurt has 31 grams.
♦ Look at the ingredients list for syrups listed as anything ending in “-ose,” like high fructose corn syrup; and added sugars, like molasses; cane sugar or fruit juice concentrate.
♦ Exceptions? For a sweet treat, enjoy 1 ounce of 70 percent dark chocolate or take a teaspoon of unfiltered honey in your tea. Both deliver heart-loving polyphenols, flavonoids, B vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium and manganese. Sweet!
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It comes as no surprise that Marilyn Monroe was not a natural blonde. In the 1952 film classic “Monkey Business,” Ginger Rogers wanted to “pull that blond hair out by its black roots.” But did you know your “100 percent natural” granola bar contains ingredients such as high-maltose corn syrup — not something Mother Nature came up with? Or that your favorite “natural lemonade” contains butylated hydroxyanisole, a synthetic preservative that the Department of Health and Human Services Toxicology Program says is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”?
Most folks — around 77 percent of you — assume that if something is labeled “natural,” it’s close to organic, as far as purity goes. But in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has no official definition of “natural” food. (In Canada, foods claiming to be natural must meet specific standards for content and purity.) The only statement the FDA has made about the word “natural” is to say it hasn’t “objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.” That hasn’t stopped companies from misusing the word on all kinds of product packaging.
What can you do? If you do opt for prepared (prepackaged) foods, read the ingredients label. It’s only natural to want healthy, tasty foods that you can grab on the go. Our favorites? Apples, pears and oranges, any berry, walnuts, almonds and nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Just say NO to products that try to pull the nylon (wool would be natural) over your eyes.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.