Guess how many pounds of sugar the average American consumes each year…
I was a little shocked by the answer: the average American consumes 150-170 pounds of sugar a year. Let’s break this down. This equals 22 teaspoons, or 7 tablespoons, each day. I guess it’s not surprising. Look at any pre-packaged food in the grocery store and 95% of the products have added sugar. It gets worse. Alarmingly, children end up eating 33 teaspoons of sugar a day (more than adults!) because of all of the sugary cereals, chocolate milk, etc.
Why is so much sugar not the best thing for your health? Here are a few reasons:
1. Sugar is addictive. There are studies that shows that the brain reacts to sugar in a similar manner to cocaine. In fact, it can be more addictive than cocaine. Crazy. Sugar also creates the happy hormone, serotonin, and the body starts craving it more and more.
2. Sugar has no nutrients, it is just empty calories. Not only that, but it pulls nutrients from the body, because the body needs certain nutrients to metabolize the sugar.
3. Sugar causes highs and lows. You all know that feeling at 3pm when you feel low on energy and you want to reach for sugar? If you do, you get that spike of energy, but then later you will get the crash of energy.
Here’s the thing. I’m not here to tell you sugar is “bad”. I have learned from personal experience that when someone tells me not to eat something, or “that thing is bad!”, then I want to eat it more. Once I eat it, I feel guilty. I’m here instead, to say that I believe that life needs sweetness, and that our diet needs sweetness. We should have all a well-rounded diet, including all tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent ) and each taste is important for feeling satisfied.
How about, instead of eating white processed sugar, we reach for sweet foods that are less processed and provide some nutrition? These days, when I want a sweet treat, I made something with healthier sweeteners.
Here are my current favorite sugar substitutes:
Honey is a great sweetener that is also medicinal. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and great for the cold season. It helps soothe coughs, colds and sore throats. If I am sick, I create a mixture of honey, turmeric, and ginger and eat it slowly. It helps soothes my throat or cough and also gives a boost to my immune system. If you are looking to buy honey, buy raw honey, because when it’s pasteurized, some of the benefits gets “burned” away. Honey is great for oatmeal, on toast, or in raw desserts.
2. Maple Syrup
This is probably my favorite of the sweeteners. I love the nutty taste, and could eat it everyday. Maple syrup is also good for the immune system and is full of vitamins and minerals. When buying maple syrup, reach for grade B. It’s a little confusing, but grade B is better quality than grade A. Maple syrup is amazing in baking, on oatmeal, and on a spoon.
Don’t confuse stevia with the artificial sugars you see in restaurants and cafes. Stevia is an all natural sweetener that comes from a leafy green plant. It is grown in South America and is naturally very sweet. Some people don’t like the bitter flavor, but I’ve found that the liquid form is better. Something to know when buying stevia, make sure the product is 100% stevia. There are some brands that add other ingredients. This is the brand I use: Natural SweetLeaf Stevia Clear Liquid.
This is another natural sweetener that is remarkably similar tasting to sugar. The only downfall is it comes in crystals that do not melt. Therefore, it’s not so great in teas. It is however, delicious in oatmeal, on top of yogurt, in desserts and in smoothies or lassis. You will also find xylitol in natural chewing gums. It is known for strengthening of the teeth and gums, just don’t consume large quantities, it can cause some intestinal discomfort.
5. Dried and fresh fruit.
I think nature’s pure food from is the best choice for a sweet treat. Fruit comes in a perfect package of vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and sweetness. What is better than a sweet and tart bright red raspberries? Or a juicy cold watermelon on a hot day? The only problem I have with fruit, is when to eat it. I believe, like some others, that fruit should be eaten on an empty stomach, not after meal. This limits the time fruit can be enjoyed. Instead of having it after a heavy meal for dessert, have it as a snack between meals or for breakfast.