Whether it’s the smell of fresh baked cookies, the sight of the donut shop, or the taste of a delicious fruit smoothie on a hot summer day, sugar is there…surrounding and enticing us to indulge. Sugar’s seductive ways fuel a desire that feels nearly impossible to control, right? Well, part of this could be related to findings that suggest a dependency on sugary foods stimulates the same feel good hormones in our body that are stimulated when someone is engaging in other addictive behaviors. Though a dependency on Kit-Kat’s is less likely to lead to the same detrimental effects as a drug dependency, it still can wreck havoc on your health and increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
It’s nearly impossible to get a straight answer when it comes to sugar and what’s considered the “best” to use. HFCS, cane, molasses, agave, sucralose, etc., the list could go on considering the abundance of sugars available on the market today. As a health professional, I too am lost at times when deciding on what’s the best option to use in my recipe creations or which granola bar is better…the one with less sugar or the one with more fiber and protein?
Although it is overwhelming, rest assured I do have some answers for you when it comes to our sugar sweetie. Let’s dive in and explore the three main types of sugar that are used most frequently: processed, artificial and natural.
- Processed sugar, often found as refined white sugar, however also includes molasses, brown sugar, and sugar in the raw.
- Sugar formed from the process of extracting the juice from sugarcane or sugar beets.
- Used in packaged food (frozen meals, granola bars), baked goods, dressings, condiments, soft drinks, juices.
- Increased consumption of processed sugar has shown to parallel the rise in obesity nationwide.
- Low to No Calorie Sweeteners, aka most often found as artificial sugar (AS), such as Splenda, Equal, Sweet n Low, however more recently on the market from naturally derived plant sources like Stevia and Nectresse.
- Some are chemically formed in a laboratory, others more recently have been extracted from plants; both have little to no caloric value.
- Used in “sugar-free” products marketed towards diabetics and those interested in weight loss. Can cause GI distress.
- Recent studies have shown excessive consumption of AS can increase your cravings for sugary items and thus increase your total caloric intake, leading to further weight gain. However, other researches have found the exact opposite…oye vey!!!
|Low to No Calorie Alternatives|
- Natural sugar, aka fructose and lactose, found in fresh fruits and milk products.
- Sugars found naturally in foods, not added, processed or altered in any way, shape or form.
- Fruit purees, like applesauce and bananas, are great to use to decrease added sugars in baked goods while increasing the fiber content!
- Best form to include in your diet to prevent health related disease conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
- Moderation is key though, so remember to keep in mind the recommended 2-4 servings of fruit per day!
What’s important to remember is that regardless of the type of sugar you decide to use, you want to keep your total amount of added sugars (those not naturally found in the food item itself) to a minimum. Current recommendations encourage adults to limit consumption of added sugars to less than 5% of total calories per day (which equals less than 6 teaspoons or roughly 25 grams per day).
Rather than throw to much at you at one time, I am going to leave it at this for today. Stay tuned for future posts to divulge more information with recipes recommendations using some more of our NATURAL sugar sweeties! Check out the link here and search “sugar 101” for more info: www.heart.org/.