The Sweet Life: What’s good, What’s bad, and a couple of tips

 In Blog, Healthy Steps

Girl eating pastryWe all know too much sugar is a probably a bad thing, and that it can have some pretty serious effects on your health. But do we really know why? Should we avoid all it? And what about the artificial stuff? This month National Institute of Health released an article answering a lot of these questions for us.

The Good:

The NIH explains that our bodies do need one type of sugar – glucose, to survive.

“Glucose is the number one food for the brain, and it’s an extremely important source of fuel throughout the body,” says Dr. Kristina Rother, an NIH pediatrician and expert on sweeteners.

BUT WAIT! Rother further explains there’s no need to add glucose to your diet, because your body can make the glucose it needs by breaking down food molecules like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

The NIH also explains that some of the sugars which are found naturally in foods such as  fruits, vegetables, and milk, can be healthy additions to your diet because of all the extra nutrients and dietary fiber that come along with them.

The Bad

Too much sugar = more calories and all the effects that come with it, such as obesity.

Want to hear something pretty shocking? Fifteen of the calories in the American adult diet come from added sugars. That’s about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. You may not even realize how much sugar you are consuming, as it’s hidden in so many different types of food under a different moniker. For instance – go home and check that jar of pasta sauce you just bought. Some of the different names for sugar include:

  • corn sweetener
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • fruit-juice concentrates
  • nectars
  • raw sugar
  • malt syrup
  • maple syrup
  • fructose sweeteners
  • liquid fructose
  • honey
  • molasses
  • anhydrous dextrose,
  • or other words ending in “-ose,” the chemical suffix for sugars.

The Artificial Stuff

Some say good, some say bad, in short – the studies are mixed.

The NIH explains:

People have debated the safety of artificial sweeteners for decades. To date, researchers have found no clear evidence that any artificial sweeteners approved for use in the U.S. cause cancer or other serious health problems in humans.

But can they help with weight loss? Scientific evidence is mixed. Some studies suggest that diet drinks can help you drop pounds in the short term, but weight tends to creep back up over time. Rother and other NIH-funded researchers are now working to better understand the complex effects that artificial sweeteners can have on the human body.

Some Tips from The NIH  for Cutting Added Sugars:

  • Choose water, fat-free milk, or unsweetened tea or coffee instead of sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit drinks.
  • Reduce sugar in recipes. If a recipe says 1 cup, use 2/3 cup.
  • To enhance flavor, add vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
  • Eat fresh, canned, frozen, and dried fruits without added sugar. Choose fruits canned in their own juice rather than syrup.
  • Use fruits to top foods like cereal and pancakes rather than sugars, syrups, or other sweet toppings.
  • Read the ingredients list to pick food with little or no added sugar.
  • Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose packaged foods with less total sugar.


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