Sugar is often seen as a guilty pleasure that’s only to be enjoyed on rare occasions. But that reputation is not entirely accurate, as sugar is naturally occurring in many healthy foods, including fruit.

Naturally occurring sugars do not pose a threat to overall health. However, added sugars, which the American Heart Association notes can be found in soft drinks, candy, pies, and fruit drinks, can contribute to weight gain. Obesity is a risk for cardiovascular disease, which means that added sugars can adversely affect heart health.

One of the difficulties with added sugars is that they are often present in foods and beverages generally considered healthy. Fruit juice, for example, seems like a healthy addition to any diet. However, the AHA notes that many juices contain added sugars from fruit juice concentrates. Such juices may not be seen as such, but they can be as compromising to one’s overall health as soft drinks or other beverages generally considered to be unhealthy.

The AHA acknowledges that part of the difficulty with navigating one’s way through added sugars is that these unhealthy additives go by many names. The Harvard Medical School notes that added sugars are not currently listed on Nutrition Facts labels, though they are listed among the ingredients on food packaging. Both the AHA and the HMS recommend scanning ingredients lists for words that end in “ose,” such as fructose, dextrose, glucose, and maltose. Those are some examples of added sugars, as are high fructose corn syrup, molasses, corn sweetener, syrup, and honey.

The AHA recommends limiting consumption of added sugars and offers guidelines for both men and women. Men should limit their added sugar consumption to a maximum of nine teaspoons per day, while women should not consume more than six teaspoons per day.

Understanding the dangers of added sugar can help men and women protect their overall health and lower their risk for cardiovascular disease. More information is available www.heart.org.

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