Almost 75 percent of Kern County adults are either overweight or obese. Obesity is a significant risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Dietary improvements can lead to significant improvement in both obesity and chronic diseases. Added sugars in our diets can lead to obesity. Some common sources of added sugar are cereals and sweetened beverages. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day; however, the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis. This means that the average American male consumes more than twice the recommended intake of added sugars and American women consume more than three times the recommended intake.

In addition to sweetened beverages and cereals, processed and prepared foods are high in added sugars. This includes frozen entrees (TV dinners), prepared foods bought at the grocery store and fast foods. These are foods that are often not thought of as being “sweet,” but contain high amounts of hidden added sugars. By buying ingredients and preparing your own food, you are able to better control how much added sugar is consumed in your diet. A lifestyle change that includes more cooking and preparation of your own food can drastically limit your intake of added sugars.

Another technique in avoiding added sugars is the avoidance of consuming products that contain sugar as either the first or second ingredient on the food label. It is always important to view the food labels and nutritional facts on a food product before purchasing. There are 56 different names used to denote the presence of sugar in a product. Because it can be confusing trying to decipher what all these names are, familiarize yourself with the different names, look for them in products on the food label and avoid products that contain these added sugars.

The American Heart Association has recommended that Americans drastically cut back on added sugars to help combat rising obesity rates and heart disease. Additionally, studies have shown associations between Type 2 diabetes and high dietary intake of added sugars. Lowering our intake of high amounts of added sugars can have positive health benefits.

Although foods such as fruit and whole grains are ultimately sugars, they are naturally occurring sugars that contain fiber and a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals that help your body digest the sugars more efficiently into energy. The fiber in these types of foods helps your body avoid blood sugar spikes and helps to keep a more stable blood glucose level throughout the day. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are categorized as “complex carbohydrates,” which means they contain fiber and are introduced into the bloodstream in small amounts over a long period of time. These types of carbohydrate foods give you long-lasting and sustained energy. Conversely, “simple carbohydrates,” such as products with added sugars, are introduced all at once into the bloodstream when consumed. This causes a quick rise and fall in blood sugar, which isn’t considered a healthy action for your body to continuously take.

It is important to limit added sugars in your diet to avoid health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, all of which are very prevalent in Kern County. Additionally, see your doctor on a regular basis to check your blood glucose and A1C levels to monitor your risk of diabetes.

Many complications of diabetes can be avoided with early diagnosis and this can greatly improve the quality of your life. 

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