Tips on cutting out added sugar from your diet

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Some surprising food items, like ketchup, contain added sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. (KABC)

Experts say we could all do a little better when it comes to reducing how much sugar we eat.

One big problem: so much of it comes in the form of added sugars.

Consuming too much added sugar can increase your chances of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

And doctors say that overload of sugar goes straight to the liver, overwhelming its ability to process it.

That in turn, can raise the risk of fatty liver disease.

But by making some small changes, and being more aware, you can reduce your sugar intake.

Sweetened beverages account for about 47 percent of added sugar in the American diet. A 20-ounce bottle of cola contains about 65 grams, more than the recommended daily limit.

Try swapping out your soft drinks for seltzer water with a splash of no-sugar-added juice or tea or squeeze of lemon.

Instead of flavored yogurt or fruit juice in the morning, try to eat more grain-based foods with little or no sugar, like Cheerios or plain oatmeal. Better yet, have scrambled eggs, fruit or nuts.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic is a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic. She said, "Swap out the added sugars, increase your consumption of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and low-fat dairy products."

Being aware and looking at labels will help.

For example, two of the four biggest ingredients in Heinz ketchup are sweeteners. And the biggest ingredient in many barbecue sauces is high-fructose corn syrup.

Instead, look for other sauces to flavor your food. Try things like yellow mustard or marinara that forgo the sugar.

Better yet, make your own spaghetti sauce so you know exactly what's in it. Same goes for salad dressing. Bottled salad dressing can be a surprising source of added sugar.
Watch out for words on ingredient labels that are used to disguise sugar, like dextrose, fructose, saccharose, agave nectar and evaporated cane juice.

"When you start to reduce the intake of sweets in your diet, your body gets accustomed to it and you won't miss it," said Jamieson-Petonic.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day for men and 24 grams for women. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans consume anywhere from 73 to 82 grams per day.

And there are other benefits to cutting back on sugar: experts say your skin may look better, and you may find yourself feeling less bloated and more energetic.
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