Sugar is one of the most confusing topics when it comes to health and weight loss thanks to years of complicated diet culture messaging.
And while you may assume sugar isn't the best thing for your health and waistline, you may not realize there is a big difference between added sugars, and naturally occurring sugars.
Sugar is naturally found in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese, and even grains. But ADDED sugars are the sugars manufacturers add to processed and prepackaged foods like ice cream, cookies, candy and soda, and other less obvious foods like ketchup, spaghetti sauces, flavored yogurts, and salad dressings.
Here's why it matters. The natural occurring sugars found in fruits and vegetables, are converted to glucose and used by the body as quick energy. With the exception of specific medical conditions, such as diabetes, fruits and vegetables make up an important part of a healthy diet because they deliver other key nutrients, like essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and even protein. And many fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to help reduce the risk of diseases.
Whereas the added sugars, found in many processed snack foods, candies and baked goods contain little to no real nutritional value and when consumed in excess, contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of diseases. Many of the foods and drinks that contain added sugars also lack fiber, which means they're digested and absorbed by the bloodstream more quickly, causing a blood sugar spike and fall (aka the sugar rush), which often leads to symptoms such as headaches, increased thirst, food cravings, blurry vision, fatigue and more.
The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 25 grams (or just 6 teaspoons) of added sugar each day. And given the sneaky place those sugars hide, those grams can add up quick, especially if your'e eating highly processed foods from a box, bag, or container.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that most Americans actually consume 3 to 4 times the recommended daily limit! It certainly doesn't help that added sugars are now hanging out in many popular condiments, restaurant entrees and foods being marketed as "healthy."
That's because added sugars are often used as a preservative to extend a food's shelf life while enhancing flavor, similar to other common preservatives, like salt and bad fats.
But don't worry, there are a few simple ways you can reduce your added sugar intakes and support your health goals too!
Naturally eat better with the help of these ten simple sugar swaps:
Honey: not only does a little go a long way, but in it's raw and natural form it is rich in antioxidants!
Maple Syrup: is another a little dab will do ya sweetener, it comes from plant sap and contains over 50 antioxidants!
Cinnamon: a subtle sweet yet spicy flavor adds some warm kick to anything from your morning coffee to oatmeal or baked goodies! And bonus - it's calorie free!
Unsweetened Applesauce: a great sub to use in your baked goods - instead of 1/2 C white sugar use 1/2 C applesauce in your next batch of cookies!
Pureed Banana: just like applesauce its a great swap for the white stuff and makes your baked goods taste rich and creamy while supplying some wholesome nutrients too - perfect not only for banana bread, but your next batch of cookies, brownies, DIY ice creams and smoothies too!
Raisins, Cranberries, Dates, Apricot: whether you puree or dice them dried, these little guys can add some flavor from tart to sweet to your baked goods as well as some essential vitamins, minerals and awesome antioxidants too!
Coconut Sugar: so you want to sweeten your baked good and these other subs just won't do...try swapping traditional white sugar with this sweet and full of potassium alternative! Often times you can even use a little less (refer to your recipe and apply sugar swap as directed from the package).
Lemon and/or Lime: tart maybe, but a hint of sweetness too! A mug of hot lemon water and a dab of honey in the morning is not a bad way to kickstart the day! Try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to refresh your water, and for mixed drink lovers skip the sweet and sour mixers and save on empty calories by going with this fresh full of flavor alternative!
Milk: whether it's traditional cow's milk or an almond, hemp, rice, or coconut alternative (there are so many great options available now!) adding a splash to your tea or coffee can deliver great flavor with a hint of sweetness and even some essential vitamins and minerals all while saving you on empty calories....win/win!
Club soda: soda and fruit juice lovers rejoice - a great way to cut down on calories is by using this simple alternative! Sub up to 1/2 of the juice in your glass with a bit of bubbly or pour a glass of club soda and add a few slices of your favorite fresh citrus (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, tangerine) and enjoy a healthier spin on traditional sodas!
10 Awesome Benefits of Reducing Added Sugars:
Lower blood pressure
Reduce bad cholesterol
Decrease risk of heart attack
Keep the blues at bay
Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
Promote clear and healthy skin
Improve overall energy
Save your teeth (and gums!)
Stay mentally sharp and focused
Reduce future cravings
Are you tired of starting over every Monday, hopping from diet to diet, wondering if you'll ever get it "right" so that you can lose the weight and become the best version of you? I’ve got you friend! Come join me inside my FREE women’s-only Facebook community: Eat Better with Coach Mindy. It's for busy women like you who are ready to lose weight, gain energy, get healthy and fit -- without restrictive diets or punishing food rules.