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The Truth About White Foods

Should you give up white foods and their 'bad carbs'?

22 Teaspoons of Sugar a Day

The white food many of us would find hardest to give up is sugar. On average, Americans eat and drink the equivalent of 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, mostly from soft drinks and candy, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).  That's as much sugar as in two cans of soda plus a candy bar (roughly 355 calories).  Over time, those extra calories add up, causing weight gain and displacing other important nutrients from the diet.    

Sugar, in whatever form, provides few nutrients other than calories.  Some experts think eating sugar helps lead to cravings for more sweets - and, of course, it can lead to cavities. More significantly, the AHA has raised concerns about sugar's role in obesity, diabetes, and ultimately heart health.

While few of us are willing to give up sugar entirely, if you did, your health certainly wouldn't suffer -- and you'd probably be a little thinner.

So how do you keep from overdoing the white foods or "bad carbs" in your diet?

Use the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels to find out the total carbohydrate, fiber, and sugar content of food products.  Also, read the list of ingredients; look for breads, pasta, and other carbohydrate foods that list whole grains as their first ingredient.

To keep sugar in check, the AHA suggests limiting added sugar to 100 calories a day for women and 150 for men.  And make your sweet calories work for you by choosing foods that also offer some nutritional goodness, like yogurts or whole-grain cereals.

 

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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