Though many of us love our salty, fatty foods, it seems that most people have an insatiable sweet tooth.
Unfortunately, while we once thought that avoiding fat was the key to health, we now know that sugar is quite possibly more harmful than are even saturated fats. You may have heard the recent headlines about how the sugar industry manipulated research to exaggerate the health risks of fat consumption to minimize the risks of sugar consumption? This doesn't mean we should start gorging on fatty, fried foods, but it does reinforce the point that low fat diets are not necessarily the ideal, particularly if they are high in sugar.
So if sugar isn't our friend, how do we satisfy that sweet tooth? Is there a way to do it healthfully?
Fortunately, the answer is yes!
The ideal is to wean yourself off of sweetened foods altogether and start just enjoying the natural sweetness from fruits and veggies. Ha, ha, right? I know, this is absolutely something we should all strive for, but it may take a long time to get there, if ever. At the very least, cutting down on consuming anything with unnecessary added sugar (pasta sauce, salad dressing, etc.) is the first step. Switching to healthier alternatives is the next.
Which sweetener should you use to replace sugar? This is a question that gets people up in arms (generally over the whole natural versus artificial debate, which is largely meaningless). Well, here's my perspective on it:
Avoid fancy named sweeteners that are really no better than sugar:
Barley malt syrup
Cane juice crystals
Corn syrup solids
Dehydrated cane juice
Evaporated cane juice
Free-flowing brown sugars
Fruit juice concentrate
HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
Minimize your use of these 'natural' sweeteners:
Minimize use of these 'artificial' sweeteners:
So what should you use to sweeten your food? Here are the products I recommend:
People tend to assume that if a sweetener is artificial, it is toxic, and this is not true. While Saccharin and Acesulfame-K are definitely ones to avoid, there is little research (I AM TALKING CREDIBLE RESEARCH FOLKS, NOT THE CRAP YOU FIND ON DR. MERCOLA'S WEBSITE!), that Sucralose or even Aspartame are harmful. On the other hand, there is reams of research showing how harmful 'natural' sugar is.
Is it better to use no sweetener? Of course, but sometimes its just not going to happen (I don't think I will ever be able to drink unsweetened coffee!).
For diabetics, the issue is how it affects blood sugar, which means that natural versus artificial is irrelevant. They also need to watch their consumption of coconut sugar, honey and maple syrup.
Anyone trying to reduce calories should consider nutritive content, and again, natural often loses out here. Xylitol has slightly fewer calories than sugar, while stevia, monk fruit and erythritol are essentially calorie free.
So, it really boils down to this: you should drink plain water. If must have pop/soda, have diet (yes!) and for the love of your body, do not drink sweetened drinks! In terms of other foods, same idea applies: avoid sweetened foods, but when this isn't possible, look for foods using the healthiest sugar alternatives. Yes, this may mean cooking/baking your own food! Well you should be doing that anyways!
Have a sweet weekend!