- We are consuming record amounts of sugars in our diets. Based on the latest scientific reports, the average American consumes 350-475 calories a day of “added” sweeteners. That is the equivalent of 22-30 teaspoons! (“Added” sugars are those that are put into processed foods and beverages – not the “natural” sugars already present in foods like whole fruit and plain yogurt.)
- Consuming excess sugar has been consistently linked to weight gain, obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and gout (all of which have dramatically increased in the past 30 years commensurate with our increased intakes of sugars).
- For optimal health, sugars/sweeteners should be limited in the diet. Current recommendations from the American Heart Association are that women consume no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) a day of “added” sugars and for men, no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons) a day. Children should consume even less. I concur with these recommendations.
- Because of their unique metabolic and hormonal effects, sugars are especially fattening. In fact, sugary beverages have emerged as the most fattening form of calories on the planet. In other words, 200 calories of a sugary beverage, like a soda, leads to more potential weight gain than 200 calories of a solid food. Keep in mind that virtually all of the calories in sugary beverages (soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, etc.) are from sugar. Sugars in this “naked” liquid form are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream when consumed. Rapidly absorbable sugars give rise to sudden and large elevations of blood glucose and blood fructose (the two simple sugars that comprise the sweeteners used in our foods and beverages) which creates biochemical havoc at many levels. We are especially concerned with large elevations of blood fructose. Rapid and large excursions of blood fructose seem to be even worse than those of blood glucose. Bottom line – The fall out from too much sugary foods and beverages is disrupted metabolism and deleterious effects in our arteries and in our livers.
- It is very important to be aware that sugar has many different names or “aliases.” When you see any of the following names on a food or beverage product label or ingredients’ list , know that they are ALL “sugar:”
- Table sugar
- Fruit juice concentrate; example: apple juice concentrate or grape juice concentrate
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Crystalline fructose
- Agave syrup or nectar (almost pure fructose!)
- Brown sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Corn syrup
- Evaporated cane juice
- Brown rice syrup
Despite their different names, all of these sweeteners are made up of the exact same thing – various proportions (generally about 50:50) of glucose and fructose. They are ALL unhealthy and bad for you beyond small amounts. The heavier and less active you are, the more vulnerable you will be to the adverse effects of these sweeteners.
- With the exception of diabetics, I prefer that everyone use small amounts of sugar vs. artificial sweeteners. When you feel the need to sweeten a food or beverage (which should not be often!), I recommend that you use molasses, especially the black strap variety. Although, it does contain rapidly absorbable glucose and fructose like all of its cousin sweeteners noted above , it is also chock full of polyphenol antioxidants and minerals including iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. If you use molasses, at least you are getting some good along with the bad. Honey contains some antioxidant and antibacterial compounds which make it a “better” choice also, but I would still put molasses above it in my options. Raw sugar also contains some minerals and polyphenols, but not on the same level as molasses.
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