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Should sugar be the “forbidden fruit?”  Should you eliminate all sugar from your diet?  What about artificial sweeteners?  Are they safe?  Is there a good natural low calorie sweetener?

If you’ve been asking these questions, then you’re already headed in the right direction.  The most important thing you can do, is increase your own knowledge of sugar content in the foods you and your family are consuming.  Manufacturers of processed foods have manipulated food ingredients (mainly fat, sugar, and salt) to increase “craveability” resulting in sugar turning up in foods you might not expect to find it.  Check out the ingredient and nutrition labels of your yogurt, salad dressings, nut butters, tomato sauce, condiments and especially soft drinks and sports drinks--sugar is hidden in so many of our foods!  

FIVE REASONS TO KICK THE SUGAR HABIT

1.  Sugar contains no nutrients.  It contains empty calories and is bad for your teeth.

2.  Sugar can overload the liver causing it to turn the sugar components into fat.

3.  It can cause insulin resistance, thought to be a leading driver in causing many diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes.

4.  Sugar may increase the risk for depression.  Researchers believe that blood sugar swings and inflammation may be reasons for sugar’s negative impact on mental health.

5.  Sugar is a major contributor to obesity.  Many studies have examined the link between sugar consumption and obesity and found a strong statistical association, especially for children. Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, including cancer.

Source: 11 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar is Bad For You

Read more:

The Sweet Dangers of Sugar

8 Products with More Sugar than You Think

Shocking Sugar Finds

10 Things You Don’t Know About Sugar (and What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You)

Sugar is a Drug, and This is How We’re Hooked

So, How Much Added Sugar is OK?

According to the American Heart Association, the daily intake of sugar should not exceed 3 teaspoons (12 grams) for kids, 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for women, and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men.   The World Health Organization, however, recommends no more than 10 grams of added sugar per day (approximately 2 teaspoons) for both men and women. Given there are approximately 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of sugar in a regular soda, it's easy to see how the amount of sugar we consume can get out of hand.

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO

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1.  Read labels.  Sugar is hiding in unexpected places If you see it toward the top of the list of ingredients, that is a red flag. Learn sugar’s sneaky names. Generally, look for any word ending in -ose (fructose, dextrose, maltose.) Other common sugars:  brown rice syrup, cane syrup, cane juice, corn sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup), molasses, and honey. 

2.  Eat healthy fats, lean protein, and whole grains.  They will keep you feeling full and energized, without the blood sugar rise and fall that often leads to sugar cravings.

3.  Buy unsweetened.  Makes sense, right?  There are many unsweetened versions of some of your favorite foods:  almond and coconut milk, applesauce, oatmeal, nut butters, packaged fruits, etc. 

4.  Drink water, milk, unsweetened tea and coffee instead of sugary sodas or sports drinks.

5.  Cook from scratch and eat whole foods—foods in their most natural form.  Then you control the type and amount of sugar that is in your food.

Source: 9 Ways to Quit Sugar for Good

What About Artificial Sweeteners?

Many people turn to foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners, especially diet sodas, to satisfy their cravings for something sweet and reduce their calorie intake..  What many studies have found, however, is that consuming artificially sweetened drinks actually leads to weight gain, instead of weight loss.  The reasons are still unclear—it could be a way that the body reacts and releases insulin, change in gut bacteria, or it could be behavioral, meaning when people consume low calorie drinks, they feel justified in eating other foods that are higher in calories.  

Interestingly, some studies indicate that the use of artificial sweeteners, in general, were not associated with weight loss, but instead with weight gain, greater waist circumference, greater incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and more cardiovascular events.  

Read more here:

Artificial Sweeteners: Where Do We Stand?

The Problem with Sugar Free Kids

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners-Aspartame and Sucralose Damage Gut Bacteria

Healthier, Natural Artificial Sweeteners

There are options out there for people managing diabetes and/or watching sugar intake for losing weight or other health reasons. These sugar substitutes are not associated with spikes in blood sugar or insulin.

Stevia: Stevia is a plant based sweetener that comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. It is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. It has virtually zero calories, so is a common alternative to sugar.

Erythritol: Erythritol is a sugar alcohol. It contains 6% of the calories of sugar with about 70% of the sweetness. Be aware that sugar alcohols have been associated with some digestive issues if too much is consumed at one time.

Xylitol: Xylitol is another sugar alcohol. It has about 2/3 of the calories of sugar with a sweetness similar to sugar. if you have a dog you should keep Xylitol out of reach. It is highly toxic to dogs. Also, keep in mind that as a sugar alcohol, it can cause digestive issues if consumed in larger quantities.

You can read more here: 8 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

The Bottom Line

  • Read labels so you know how much sugar is in your food.

  • Cook from scratch so you control the amount of sugar you’re eating.

  • Sugar is not the “evil” ingredient, but how it is hidden and used to manipulate our taste buds is the real problem.

  • Enjoy occasional sugary treats. It may seem counter intuitive, but this could actually help you avoid bingeing if you’ve severely restricted your sugar intake.

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