Let’s face it, sugar tastes great and is found in many products. It is also addictive because it stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, which causes happiness. Unprocessed foods and drinks such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains, made up of carbohydrates, can contain natural sugars. These natural sugars are called fructose and lactose. The body converts these natural sugars into energy, helps preserve muscles, and promotes digestive health. A diet high in natural sugars has also been proven to reduce the risks related to diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Sugar like many foods should be consumed in moderation.
Sugar added to foods is called refined sugar and comes in different forms. Some popular refined sugars are brown sugar, white sugar, honey, malt syrup, corn syrup, molasses, and cane juice. Using or consuming too many refined sugars can lead to several health problems such as tooth decay and weight gain.
It is safe to say that consuming natural sugars is healthier than consuming refined sugars. This claim is supported by Health advocate Helen Schifter, who opines that a healthy lifestyle depends on maintaining a healthy diet. Schifter notes that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables allows the body to process nutrients easier and uses them for energy and antioxidants.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the daily intake of refined sugars be six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men. While AHA’s recommendation may reduce the adverse effects of refined sugar on the body, these types of sugars should be reduced or cut from a diet. The following are some ways in which an individual can eliminate added sugar from their diet:
1. Read the ingredients list and nutrition value of products to identify the types and amounts of sugars. Supermarkets and produces tend to hide this information on packaging to trick people into purchasing their products.
2. Reduce the amount of sugar used or added when cooking, baking, making a cup of coffee, or having a snack.
3. Replace sugar in recipes with spices or fruits. Many people crave sugar because they are used to it and not familiar with other flavors.
4. Stay away from artificial sweeteners, which can be much sweeter than refined sugar and have been known to enhance sugar cravings.
5. Make a meal plan. Meal planning saves money and time and is healthier than eating out at fast-food restaurants or consuming processed foods. Meal planning also ensures control over what is being used and consumed. It will hence make it easier to see how much sugar is in your diet ahead of time.
Consuming moderate amounts of sugar is not unhealthy. Helen Schifter stresses that it is important to note that eliminating sugar from one’s diet takes time and patience and should not be the primary solution for weight loss. It would be very helpful also to consult with your doctor and or dietician on how little or how much sugar you should consume for a healthier more productive you.