CNN  — 

Want to fight fat, wrinkles and chronic disease? Consider slashing the amount of added sugar in your diet.

The empty calories in sugar definitely contribute to weight gain – and the obesity epidemic – which in turn leads to all sorts of chronic diseases, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more.

Sugar can even make you look older than you are by interrupting the skin’s ability to repair itself. The end result is more wrinkles.

Now consider this: The average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association. That’s a fanatical amount of sweetness – a level only addicts would share.

The recommended level? No more than six teaspoons a day for women and nine for men.

To fight your sugar addiction and begin to reclaim your youth and health, start by becoming a sugar detective.

Detox the pantry

Identify and toss all sugary ingredients in your home, including white and brown sugars, corn syrups, pancake syrups, jams, jellies, honey and molasses.

Add any boxes of ready-to-mix items to the trash as well, such as pancake, brownie, cookie, cake and instant pudding mixes.

Now take a good look at the labels on the rest of the foods in your pantry, and be prepared to be shocked. Sugar is often used by food manufacturers to extend a product’s shelf life, so even savory items often contain sugar.

Pasta sauces often contain as much sugar as a cookie. Salad dressings such as French, honey mustard and raspberry vinaigrette can deliver between 5 and 7 grams of sugar in just two tablespoons. Ketchup is worse – it has about 4 grams per tablespoon. Barbecue sauce, hoisin sauce, Teriyaki sauce and even pickle relish all contain sugar.

Healthy bran, oat and corn breakfast cereals (not to mention the kids’ versions) are packed with sugar, too.

Look for hidden sugars

Think the pantry is now danger free? Probably not. That’s because manufacturers hide sugar by using different names.