According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Pizzorno and Murray, 1998), more than half of the carbohydrates consumed by people in the United States are added to foods as sweetening agents. Simply put, most of the carbohydrates we eat in this country are in the form of highly processed sugars. The typical American diet consists largely of processed foods that are loaded with refined sweeteners, with names like sucrose (table sugar), maltodextrin, fructose, lactose, and high fructose corn syrup. These sweeteners have the same amount of calories per gram as other, more healthful sources of carbohydrates such as whole grains. But, unlike whole grains, refined sweeteners are called "empty calories" because they do not contain any of the essential nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, because these sweeteners are intensely sweet, many of us have trained our palate's to like only those foods that are very sweet. Of course, we can't totally divorce ourselves from our natural sweet tooth. However, eating too much refined sugar is associated with a variety of health conditions including diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity, poor immune function, mood fluctuations, dental caries, and premenstrual syndrome.
So, take a step towards better health and try these suggestions for eliminating refined sugar from your diet.
- Eat more fruit: Fruit is rich in naturally occurring sugar that can satisfy your craving for sweets. More importantly, most fruits contain fiber and several vitamins and minerals.
- Cut out the soda: If you are a soda drinker, you are getting too much sugar in your diet, plus a lot of other things that aren't good for you! Also, don't think you are doing yourself a favor by drinking fruit beverages. The number one ingredient in many of the fruit drinks sold in supermarkets is high fructose corn syrup. If you want to enjoy a fruit juice, choose a product that contains 100% fruit juice.
- Leave out the spoonful of sugar: Many of us add table sugar to hot and cold beverages. To break this habit, start by cutting the amount of sugar you add to your beverages in half, then slowly eliminate the sugar completely.
- Bake and cook with alternatives: If you like to make cookies and other baked goods, you probably use a lot of white and brown sugar. Try substituting a more natural sugar, such as dried organic cane juice, in your favorite cookie and dessert recipes. In addition, pureed fruits (such as dates, bananas, and apples) or 100% fruit juice concentrate can be used in place of white and brown sugar in many recipes. To use a wet sweetener in place of dry sugar, use an equivalent amount of sweetener and reduce the liquid content in the recipe by ¼ cup. If the recipe does not call for liquid, add 3-5 tablespoons of flour for each ¾ cup of liquid sweetener used. (adapted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair)
- Use the World's Healthiest Foods as the foundation of your diet: The foods featured on this website are whole, unprocessed, and nutrient-dense foods. By incorporating more of these foods into your diet, you will automatically reduce your consumption of refined sweeteners.