sweet as sugar

What is a sweet tooth? Is that really such a thing?

high fructose corn syrup
The chemical composition of High Fructose Corn Syrup which is produced by chemically changing the ratio of glucose to fructose.

Humans are programmed to enjoy calorie-dense, sweeter foods. It has helped us to get where we are today. However, in modern society there is an array of new types of sugars that our bodies are being bombarded with. This includes traditional cane and beet sugars, but also new chemically altered options like High Fructose Corn Syrup which can be found in practically everything. This is particularly challenging for some members of society because there is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that some individuals are predisposed to crave more sugar. In short, a sweet tooth is real and those naturally included to consume more sugar can wreak havoc on their diet without them even knowing it (75 grams of sugar = 300 calories).

And where exactly can these sugars be found?

5 oz. red wine – 1 gram (all natural)
1 oz. wheat thin crackers – 4 grams (all added)
3 dark chocolate kisses – 7 grams (all added)
¼ cup bread and butter pickles – 7 grams (95% added)
6 oz. plain fat-free Greek yogurt – 7 grams (all natural)
2 TBSP Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette – 8 grams (all natural)
¾ cup honey nut toasted O’s (mmm…the taste of childhood!) – 9 grams (95% added)
1 medium sweet potato – 10 grams (all natural)
8 fl. oz. 1% milk – 12 grams (all natural)
1 cup tomato basil soup (prepared) – 15 grams (50/50)
1 cup sweetened almond milk – 16 grams (all added)
1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich – 23 grams (83% added)
8 fl. oz. low-fat chocolate milk – 25 grams (50-50)
¼ cup raisins – 28 grams (all natural)
¼ cup skittles – 30 grams (all added)
1 mango – 30 grams (all natural)
1 large caramel Frappuccino – 64 grams (90% added)
20 fl. oz. berry smoothie – 75 grams (70% natural)

The question then becomes, is there a particular type of sugar that is healthier than the others?

Unfortunately, no.

All sugars are carbohydrates that contain 4 calories per gram.

Honey...a better choice?
Honey…a better choice?

Still, there are those that argue that natural options like honey and agave are nutritionally superior. Support for these claims is limited and suggest that an individual must consume an extremely large amount of these products in order to enjoy any health benefits. Therefore, an individual should choose their sweetener based on personal flavor preference or a desire to avoid/consume processed foods.

And how does one limit sugars in their diet?

oatmeal with fruit
Adding fruit to a tasty breakfast adds vitamins and fiber!

It is suggested that individuals who are consuming too much sugar attempt to improve their diet in the same manner that those with hypertension control their sodium intake. This involves attempting to reset one’s palate by gradually using less sugar. Adding a bit less sugar to one’s morning coffee is an easy way to start. Another excellent option is replacing added sugar with fruits (i.e. in cereal, drinks, etc.) which contain natural sources of sugar are good sources of fiber and minerals.

What does it all mean?

It is possible for anyone – regardless of genetics, socioeconomic status, age and gender – to learn to consume less sugar.



** The information provided in this post is adapted from articles written in the November 2013 edition of Cooking Light magazine. The original articles were written by Kimberly Holland and Sidney Fry, MS, RD.

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