Do you have a sugar belly?

Did you hear about a beer belly before? Now they’ve found evidence that eating too much added sugar may send more of your extra calories directly to your belly.

There’s a strong link between obesity and sugar-sweetened drinks. The average American consumes between 22 and 28 teaspoons of added sugar every day — most of this in the form of high fructose corn syrup. And do you know what the daily recommended amount is? For adult men it’s nine teaspoons, and for adult women it’s six teaspoons per day.

We have way too much added sugar in our food!

But it’s really not your fault, did you know that 74 percent of the sugar we consume is hidden inside processed food? And even if you read the labels carefully you often don’t realize what you’re really eating — sugar alone has 61 different names on the label! And there are new ones coming all the time, I am still learning too.

When you eat too much carbs — like burgers, fries, pizza, ice-cream — your body converts them into sugar. And just reaching for no-sugar-added, zero calorie or diet products is not the answer, because with most of these the sugar has just been replaced by artificial sweeteners, and these are more dangerous for you than sugar. I will explain more about this in one of my next articles!

We all know that too much sugar is not good for your weight, but it does not stop there. Too much added sugar makes us sick too. And a sugar belly creates visceral (deep belly) fat, which is closely linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than skin fat.

But sugar is delicious, right? So what can we do to stop sugar cravings?

1. Read the labels carefully and you can choose a lower sugar option for your health. In the ingredients list the ingredient with the largest amount is listed first, and the one with the least amount is listed last. If sugar is high up on the list then be wary.

2. Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat the whole fruits. Fruit juice normally has less fiber than the actual fruits, so you’re getting a much higher concentrate of sugar without the benefits.

3. Instead of adding sugar to your food, for sweetening choose raw honey, raw coconut sugar, or goji berries.

If you really like drinking sweetened beverages then try adding 1 teaspoon of homemade jam to cold water — vary the amount of jam to match your taste, and mix it well. This is a delicious and healthy option!

Remember, when you’re trying to change your habits just try adding one good habit, then the bad habits will go away on their own. There is always a way to do it right!

If you’d like to learn more about sugar then I recommend the website sugarscience.org.

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii, and a personal health, fitness and lifestyle coach. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com and (808) 276-6892.

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