By Rennie Aranda – Skinny Gene Nutritionist
While foods and drinks with added sugar taste good, they can negatively impact nutrition and health by displacing healthier foods and causing you to gain weight from the excess, empty calories. When your diet is chronically high in sugar, especially added sugars, your health can be undermined since sugar can suppress the immune system, promote excess inflammation, raise insulin levels, and contribute to aging, weight gain, and disease. However, a small serving of sugar or the occasional sweet treat is not going to instantly translate into a new wrinkle or trigger multiple organ failure.
According to the American Heart Association, the amount of added sugar you can eat a day depends on your “discretionary calories” — your calorie budget beyond what you need to run your body without overindulging. Your discretionary calorie allowance depends on your age, sex, and activity level.
“Most American women should eat or drink no more than 100 calories (approx 6 tsp) per day from added sugars, and most American men should eat or drink no more than 150 calories (approx 9 tsp) per day from added sugars,” states the AHA.”
You can still keep sugar in the diet as long as you aim for more natural sugars (such as in fruit) that also contain desirable nutrients, or stick to your favorite dessert, but consume in moderation. So the next time that rich chocolate cake is calling your name, try some of these tips to satisfy those sweet cravings:
1) Avoid sugary drinks. According to the American Cancer Society, almost half of sugar consumption in the typical diet comes from sweetened beverages, which includes soda, sweetened teas and juice drinks, and sport drinks. Instead, try swapping these sweet drinks with sparkling water and add lemon (or another fruit) or a splash of fruit juice instead.
2) Sweeten foods yourself. Buy unsweetened tea, plain yogurt, or unflavored oatmeal and add sweetener or fruit yourself. You are likely to add less sweetener than the manufacturer and you know exactly how much is in your food or beverage. Sometimes it is easier to limit sugar when you see how much is physically added. Would you be more inclined to eat or drink something if you knew it had 16 teaspoons of added sugar in it?
3) Aim for options that will override cravings for sweets. Eat naturally sweet food such as fruit, some peppers, natural peanut butter, dipped fruit, yogurt, baked apples, fruit & yogurt popsicles, fruit salad, dark chocolate, unsweetened applesauce (or other pureed fruit), and frozen yogurt to satisfy your sweet tooth. Be sure to check the nutrition label for any added sugars or sweeteners!
4) Focus on fruit. Get your sugar from fruit since fresh produce also contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. For dessert, try sliced mango, frozen banana slices, and grapes or papaya drizzled with vanilla yogurt.