Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with These Savvy Secrets

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Americans eat, on average, nearly half a pound of sugar every day, mostly from products like sodas made with added sugar. People get 25 percent of their daily calories from sugars like these, even though experts warn only 10 percent of your daily calories should come from sugar.

It’s serious business. Too much sugar seems to wreak havoc in your body, raising your triglycerides and lowering your “good” HDL cholesterol. So what’s a sweet tooth to do? Never fear. Indulging doesn’t have to mean harming your health.

 

Dip into honey. Table sugar, honey, molasses, brown sugar, raw sugar — which one is better for you? They all have roughly the same calories and carbohydrates per teaspoon, and some contain vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Honey, however, boasts healthful plant compounds, including antioxidants, the others don’t. Plus, it’s sweeter than table sugar, so you can use less and get the same taste.

Stir honey into warm milk, and you get a delicious three-in-one folk remedy for soothing a sore throat, stopping a cough, and helping you sleep. Some people say honey even eases arthritis pain. And many kinds of honey act as a natural antibiotic, battling infection and healing minor wounds.

 

Steer clear of added sugar. From baked goods to sodas, cooks and food manufacturers alike love to add sugar to food. Unfortunately, diets high in added sugar contribute to obesity and increase your risk for pancreatic cancer and tooth decay. 

If you’re over the age of 55, most of your added sugar probably comes from cookies and cakes, followed closely by table sugar, syrup, candy, jams, and jellies; non-diet colas, ginger ale, and root beer; and milk products, including ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and chocolate milk. Check the ingredient list on a food’s label and avoid treats where sugar is the first or second ingredient.

 

Find alternatives to fructose. This type of sugar naturally occurs in healthy foods like fruits and honey, but manufacturers tweak it to make it sweeter, then add this super-sugar to food during processing. The result — a recipe for disaster. 

Research links added fructose to metabolic syndrome, hardening of the arteries, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease. Baked goodies, frozen foods, nondiet sodas, fruit drinks, candies, syrups, and condiments are prime sources of added fructose. Check ingredient labels and limit foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup or crystalline fructose.

 

Switch to artificial. If you can’t beat your craving for sugary snacks, consider those made with artificial sweeteners.

  • Reduced-calorie sweeteners, or sugar alcohols, pack about half the calories and carbs as regular sugar. You’ll often see them in “sugar-free” and “no sugar added” products, but beware — they can still raise your blood sugar. This group includes all the “ols” — mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, erythritol, and maltitol — as well as isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.

  • No-calorie sweeteners have no calories and no carbs and won’t raise your blood sugar. Sucralose (SPLENDA), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet ’N Low, Sugar Twin), and acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Swiss Sweet, Sunett) all belong to this exclusive club. 

Concerns have dogged aspartame over its potential to cause cancer. The Food and Drug Administration has looked at over 100 studies and declared it safe for people to use. It can, however, trigger headaches in some people. If you’re one of them, consider sweetening with sucralose (SPLENDA) instead.

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  • FC&A Staff Writer