Marketers are tricky. Most people understand that excess sugar is not healthy. Unfortunately over the last 20 years in effort to fool you into eating more sugar, companies have created ingredients for foods that don’t contain that actual word, “sugar”. Instead you’ll see high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, cane juice, etc. Those are called refined, or processed sugars. Refined sugars are commonly added to foods to make them taste better, or last longer.
First things first, not all sugar is created equal. Unlike sugar in fruit, refined sugars have no nutritional value. Fruits have vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. So that apple with 19g of sugar is more nutritious than the Snickers. Sorry.
The American Heart Association recommends to limit sugar intake to 25g or less each day. Not surprisingly, the average American consumes 3 times that each day. There’s a reason why the rates of obesity, diabetes and chronic diseases continue to rise in the United States.
Sugar causes inflammation. The body can deal with inflammation over short periods of time. Low grade chronic inflammation, over time often will result in disease, or pain; often both. Excessive unwanted calories are linked to health problems such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high triglyceride levels. All of these boost your risk of heart disease.
So what can you do about all the sugar?
First, and you’ve heard this for many years; stick to the perimeter of the supermarkets. This is typically where the healthiest food options are located in a supermarket. Fruit, vegetables, meat and nuts are your top choices and least likely to have added sugars.
Another option is to find a healthier sugar substitute for your “sweet tooth”. Three great options are pure maple syrup, raw honey and raw stevia. Maple syrup and honey both contain natural sugars, but won’t raise your blood sugar and insulin levels the same as processed sugars and both also include other vitamins or minerals making them healthier alternatives.
In baking, to reduce the sugar but keep the sweetness, you should consider using fruit puree instead of sugar. Bananas and figs are the most commonly used fruit swaps for sugar.
Sugar isn’t going anywhere. It’s likely it’ll continue be added to more and more foods in the next decade. The best long term option to reduce the negative impact of sugar on your health is to minimize your consumption of it. The more you eat it, and the longer you’re eating it, the greater your risks of developing one of a myriad of chronic diseases.