With Halloween coming up soon and the holidays around the corner, it will be hard to say no to the abundance of candy, cake and other sweet treats that seem to jump out at us at every corner and lurk in every store aisle! Despite them seeming irresistible, think twice before giving in to temptation because these seemingly innocent goodies can create some serious havoc with our health. To understand how, it’s important to understand the difference between natural and what is known as “added sugar” since natural sugar is actually an important part of a balanced diet.
Natural sugar is found in fruits, berries, vegetables, and unsweetened dairy products. Unlike added sugar, natural sugars aren’t bad for us. This is because your body processes them differently. Natural sugars deliver beneficial nutrients like protein and fiber, which encourage the sugars to be absorbed by your bloodstream at a slow, steady rate, thereby preventing spikes in blood sugar.
Refined sugars such as table sugar and sucrose usually come in the form of crystals, syrups or powders. They are no longer ‘natural’ because they have been altered or processed in some way. The main sources of added sugar include candy, cakes, and cookies as well as dairy desserts. It is also found in sweetened drinks, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, “energy” drinks, and juice drinks.
Inflammation and Other Health Issues
While inflammation is normally a natural and protective response to injuries or threats to our health, excess sugar can cause Chronic Inflammation. If left unchecked, the consistent intake can contribute to several serious health issues such as tooth decay, severe headaches, mood swings, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, digestive issues, liver disease, heart disease, blood vessel disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. This is because excess sugar causes a major imbalance in the body.
Doctor Recommended Maximum Daily Intake
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a maximum amount of added sugar as:
Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
The Center for Disease Control recommends that we limit our intake of added sugars to less than 10% of our total daily calories as part of a healthy diet. For example, in a 2,000 daily calorie diet, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars.
An Apple a Day Keeps The Sugar Monster Away!
Sugary foods might seem like an easy fix when we need a quick pick-me-up. But there are much healthier sources of energy. Here are some ways to reduce added sugar intake:
- Try to cut out most candy, baked goods, and dairy desserts.
- Skip sugary drinks and choose water instead.
- Avoid processed foods. These are high in added sugar and sodium, not to mention preservatives.
- Look for recipes that use less sugar when you are cooking or baking. You could also try substituting refined sugar with Stevia or other FDA approved sugar alternatives.
- Choose healthy foods, such as fruits, berries, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, legumes, and seeds for meals and snacks.
- Make sure to check nutrition facts on whatever packaged foods you buy because The Sugar Monster goes by many different names! Some names are obvious references to sugar, but some trickier versions are agave, cane juice, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, lactose, maltose, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, and molasses. They’re all additional!
What’s important to remember is that the type and quantity of foods you eat play essential roles in determining your energy levels during the day. Choosing the right foods combined with regular exercise will help decrease your dependence. You’ll soon see an increase in your energy. Making these important changes in your diet will set you on the path towards much better health and an enhanced sense of well-being!