The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That equals about a 100 calories worth of sugar. Unfortunately, it’s less than the sugar in one candy bar or can of soda. This doesn’t include all the natural sources of sugar from fruits, some vegetables and even some whole grains. Many Americans consume close to a whopping 22 teaspoons a day.
Carefully Re-evaluate the Alternatives: Examine the health risks linked to artificial sweeteners. They’re not always the healthier option.
- Sucralose (includes Splenda brand) – It is 500 times sweeter than sucrose, stored in body fats, and does not affect blood sugar levels. Its use is too new to know the long-term effects, but it appears the most promising and is the best one for cooking.
- Aspartame (includes Equal, Nutrasweet brands) – Several studies have found it has adverse health effects. This sweetener stays in your body longest, and it cannot be heated – or it turns into formaldehyde.
- Saccharin (includes Sweet’N Low brand) – Long-term data suggest it may be one of the safest sweeteners, even if some of the data is not positive.
The average American drinks 53 gallons of soda a year; if it’s regular soda, that comes to about 49 pounds of sugar. Soda is loaded with caffeine and high-fructose corn syrup, and it’s making Americans sick. In addition to contributing to weight gain, soda increases your risk of diabetes, bone weakening and tooth decay.
THE CHALLENGE: Cut Out the Soda
Whatever amount of soda you are currently drinking, cut it in half. If you drink 6 sodas a day, decide which 3 are the most important to you and eliminate the other 3. Next week, cut it in half again. Continue on like this until you have eliminated soda from your diet.
Eliminate Hidden Sugars – When purging your kitchen, be on the lookout for these names:
- Evaporated cane juice
- Sugars ending in “ol” or “ose”
Trick Your Taste Buds – Try adding cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla or allspice to your coffee, cereals and baked goods. In addition, some of these natural alternative sweeteners may also do the trick.
- Honey – Unlike white table sugar, honey is a complex food. One teaspoon contains 25 other compounds including proteins, amino acids and trace minerals.
- Agave – A distilled sweetener derived from the blue agave cactus, agave has a low glycemic index.
- Stevia – A low-calorie sweetener that comes from a plant native to Paraguay and Brazil, stevia is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way.
Can’t seem to stay away from the sweet stuff? There’s a reason why. When you eat sugar, it stimulates the release of dopamine in your brain, which makes you feel pleasure. The brain recognizes and likes this feeling and begins to crave more. It may startle you to learn that heroin, morphine and sugar all stimulate the same receptors in your brain. And the dangers don’t just result in weight gain. Recent studies have linked sugar to the diseases you fear most, increasing your risk of kidney damage, heart disease and even cancer.