The World Health Organization recently released updated guidelines regarding sugar intake for the first time since 2002. The amount of sugar Americans consume each day has steadily risen over the past few decades, because processed foods, artificial sweeteners and sugary desserts have become more common. The WHO's new recommendation, for both adults and children, is that sugar account for 10 percent or less of a person's total daily energy intake. The organization also noted that reducing daily sugar intake below 5 percent – 25 grams – may yield additional health benefits.
The WHO's guidelines focus on processed sugars rather than those found in fruits, vegetables and milk. Yet, free sugars in processed meals and other foods are main perpetrators that contribute to many Americans overindulging on empty calories. By reducing the amount of sugar consumed each day, the WHO believes that many countries will be able to lower instances of noncommunicable diseases. The U.S. in particular consumes a lot of free sugars, but seniors can keep their sugar intake low by making a few simple adjustments in diet.
"One soda can hold more than 5% of your daily calories."
Watch what you drink
Studies involving green tea suggest that this steeped beverage can play a role in preventing Alzheimer's disease, but filling your cup full of sugar or honey can really add to your sugar intake. The same goes for adding cream and sugar to your morning cup of Joe. Try slowly reducing the amount of sugar you add to these beverages over time, and eventually you'll adapt to the change in sweetness.
Other drinks such as soda, flavored waters and processed fruit juices also have a lot of free sugars. On average, one can of regular soda packs more than 5 percent of the recommended total calorie intake, which is almost entirely from sugar. While diet sodas may lack the sugar, research suggests that regularly consuming these beverages still results in growing abdominal circumference and instances of obesity.
Look out for hidden sugars
One of the WHO's main concerns when releasing the new guidelines had to do with 'hidden' sugars found in foods that might not be traditionally considered unhealthy. A wide range of processed foods, condiments, dressings, beverages, smoothies and dairy products contain more sugar than it would seem. While food labels list how much sugar is in a particular food, many people may not know how to navigate them or not think to even look because they believe the food looks healthy.
According to the American Heart Association, a gram of sugar converts to approximately four calories. When you're shopping, make a point of checking how many grams of sugar are in a serving, then you'll be able to calculate how many calories from sugar you're eating. This can then be used to find the percentage of sugar in your total energy intake.
Seniors can benefit from eating fresh, nutritious foods rather than microwaving processed foods loaded with extra fat, sodium and sugar. For seniors who are slowing down in the kitchen, consider that assisted living homes provide healthy, home-cooked meals every day.
Make desserts an investment
Organic Authority advises investing in high quality desserts rather than going for everyday sweet snacks. Instead of purchasing a bag of cookies, invest in one decadent truffle or a freshly-baked pastry every once in a while. Though nice desserts are a bit more expensive, the occasional indulgence is better than a daily sugar rush. The investment may also encourage you to eat less, rather than return to the cookie jar again and again.