High-Sugar Diet Linked to Cholesterol
One tends to believe that notorious cholesterol-containing egg and high-fat products are the top contributes to high cholesterol levels. However, a diet high in sugar deserves considerable mention not only related to weight gain and risk of diabetes, but its link to high cholesterol and heart disease. But just how is sugar and cholesterol linked and what can be done to reduce its intake?
One tends to believe that notorious cholesterol-containing egg and high-fat products are the top contributes to high cholesterol levels. However, a diet high in sugar deserves considerable mention not only related to weight gain and risk of diabetes, but its link to high cholesterol and heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates Americans consume an average of 20 teaspoons each day, or an approximate 80 grams. This is quite startling considering their recommendation of no more than 38 and 25 grams of sugar per day for men and women, respectively. But just how is sugar and cholesterol linked and what can be done to reduce its intake?
Is Sugar Bad for Your Cholesterol?
According to available research, yes. Continuous and ongoing evidence is going beyond the fear of dietary cholesterol and fat and expanding to concerns related to sugar's effect on heart health. In fact, researchers noted sugar consumption can disturb several markers for cardiovascular disease, including both HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Also known as high-density lipoprotein, HDL cholesterol is considered to be the "good" type of cholesterol. HDL works to take up the LDL or "bad" cholesterol from the bloodstream, transport it to the liver, and ultimately excrete it from the body. Recommendations encourage HDL levels be at least 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), though the higher, the better. Beyond reducing sugar intake, regular exercise and weight loss and management have shown to improve HDL levels.
Sugar consumption has also shown to increase triglycerides, a type of fat mostly stimulated following meals and shown to circulate in the blood when the body needs energy between meals. Weight management, a nutritious diet, and the vitamins and supplements niacin and omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglyceride levels to the recommendations of 150 mg/dL or lower.
And aside from its direct disturbances on cholesterol and heightened risk of heart disease, reducing sugar intake is valuable to overall health and well-being, including lessening the risk of obesity and the physical and psychological manifestations that tend to follow. If unsure or even struggling on how to reduce sugar, these tips may smooth the transition.
How to Reduce Sugar Intake
Say "No" to Packaged Pastries
Cutting out packaged pastries may be one of the most simultaneously easiest, yet hardest way to reduce sugar. While avoiding their intake can save on hundreds upon hundreds of calories, actually saying "no" may be difficult for some, particularly related to the sweet, tempting convenience they display. When desiring such products, allow such indulgences very sporadically or prepare in the kitchen for tighter ingredient control, including these 10 delicious and healthy baking swaps.
Recognize Hidden Sources
Although pastries are an obvious source of sugar, some products are able to hide its addition quite smoothly. In fact, added sugars may even be canned fruits and vegetables, salad dressings, deli meats, and granola bars.
Beware of "Healthful" Foods
Some packaged foods, especially if advertised as a "low-fat," "fat-free," or "gluten-free," may appear as a healthy on the outside, but may be loaded with sugar. Such products contain a tremendous amount of sugar to compensate for the elimination of other ingredients.
Look at the Nutrition Facts Label
Always take advantage of the Nutrition Facts label, as it is a valuable tool to identify sugar content. For instance, while two bags of sweetened and unsweetened strawberries look similar from the surface, glancing out at the Nutrition Facts label reads a different story. In fact, a cup of sweetened strawberries contains 47 grams of sugar, while its unsweetened variant contains only 10 grams.
Sift Through the Ingredients Label
When in doubt, sift it out! Along with the importance of a Nutrition Facts label, the Ingredient label holds significant value. Always try choosing products with minimal ingredients, including the addition of sugar. Sugar may also be listed as high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, agave nectar, cane sugar, and other forms on the ingredient list.