We all consume too much sugar. Learn how to cut back on sugar in your diet (without missing it) to improve your health and shrink your waistline.
It's impossible to get all of your nutrition without encountering some sugar and sweeteners, but Americans, in general, consume way more than "some" sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and nine for men—but on average, Americans consume about 19 teaspoons of it daily!
Healthy Sugar Substitutes
One of the reasons that Americans consume so much sugar is that so many of our processed foods contain added sweeteners—even savory items like tomato sauce, bread, and salad dressing. You can cut back on your daily intake without cutting back on taste, and reading ingredient labels is a great place to start. You can also start to think about where you can make substitutions for sugary items. For example, in some recipes, you can replace sugar with fruit puree or fresh fruit juice. You will want to tread carefully with this as it won't work for everything, but it can be a great way to incorporate natural sugar instead of refined sugars. Sweeteners like Stevia™ and Splenda™ are great options, too, but they should not be overused as they contain highly processed ingredients. You can still add them to coffee or tea, but try to use them sparingly.
Naturally Occurring, Added, and Processed Sugars
Naturally occurring sugar (such as the fructose in fruit and the lactose in milk) often comes with the benefits of nutrients. Harvard University gives us the example of an orange, which has about 12 grams of sugar and offers plenty of vitamins and fiber. A glass of orange juice (which is somewhat processed) offers those same vitamins, but less fiber, and at the cost of four times the sugar (almost as much as is in orange soda). Orange soda is fully processed, has the most sugar, and offers no nutrition.
Sweeteners are often added to foods and beverages during preparation or processing. Refined sugars, which include white sugar, brown sugar, honey (with the exception of raw honey), and chemically manufactured sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, only add calories to your diet.
Eating foods with refined sugars causes your blood sugar, or glucose, levels to spike after eating, which can lead to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Naturally occurring sugar releases glucose slowly into your blood sugar, without unhealthy spikes. Luckily, reducing the amount of refined sugar in your diet is easier than you think. If you take an honest look at what you eat and drink every day and do some research, you can start coming up with ways to replace or even eliminate sugar without sacrificing on taste.
By Joelle Klein
American Heart Association, Sugar 101
Harvard University the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Natural and Added Sugars: Two Sides of the Same Coin
University of California San Francisco, How Much is Too Much? The Growing Concern Over too Much Added Sugar in Our Diets
American Heart Foundation, Added Sugars
Harvard Medical School, Glycemic Index
Livestrong, Fruit Puree as a Sugar Substitute