With Halloween around the corner and candy sales up by double digits this year compared to 2019, it’s a good time to look at how sugar affects us and what we can do to cut back.
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
While many of us crave sweets, sugar is not a nutrient our bodies need for survival. Sugar contains calories but no nutritional value, and eating too much sugar has been linked to tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, heart disease, and even dementia.
The American Heart Association and other experts recommend eating no more than 5 percent of daily calories from sugar. This translates to 25 grams or about six teaspoons for women and 36 grams or nine teaspoons for men. At The Pickled Beet, we think even that is way too much and steer our clients towards savory more healthful whole food choices, even in the snacks we prepare for our clients.
Like sodium, most of the sugar we consume is not sprinkled on our food one teaspoon at a time. It is prevalent in packaged foods and beverages. For example, an average “fun size” Halloween treat contains around 10 grams of sugar, while a single 12-ounce can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar. Even packaged foods that are marketed as healthy can contain unhealthy amounts of sugar. A regular Clif bar contains between 17 and 22 grams of sugar.
It’s easy to blow past the recommended daily thresholds if you’re not careful about reading labels on packaged foods. It’s important to focus on the grams of “Added Sugar” as well as the ingredients. And be aware that sugar in packaged foods goes by many different names, including the controversial high-fructose corn syrup.
Can I be Addicted to Sugar?
While it’s not physically addicting like opioids or cocaine, sugar does light up the brain’s pleasure receptors. Physiologically, eating sugar elevates your blood sugar and your body produces insulin to reduce it. If your blood sugar dips too much as a result, then you may feel your energy lag, which could lead you to crave more sugar.
This cycle can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Excess sugar, including very processed high-fructose corn syrup and even natural sweeteners like agave nectar, honey, and coconut sugar is stored as fat, specifically the belly fat or visceral fat that is linked to all the chronic diseases we mentioned above.
If Sugar is Bad, What about Fruit?
Fruits contain sugar, specifically fructose, which is also found in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, so is fruit bad or good? The short answer is that fruit is okay when eaten in moderation. The naturally-occurring sugar in fruit is metabolized more slowly than refined sugars because of the fiber in fruit. And unlike the empty calories in sugar, fruits contain healthy nutrients like vitamins, potassium, and flavonoids. So, unless you have a fructose intolerance or are strictly adhering to a low-carb diet, go ahead and enjoy some fruit.
In fact, eating a piece of fruit, like an apple is one tip for combatting those sugar cravings. You can also try drinking a glass of water, taking a walk or eating some protein instead of reaching for the sweets. You can also try the Cleveland Clinic’s 10-day sugar detox to really kick the sugar habit.
The Pickled Beet can help you avoid sugar by preparing satisfying, healthy meals tailored to your nutritional goals. If you want to improve your daily diet by cutting out sugar or other refined carbs, contact us for a nutritional consultation.
We have a commitment to healthy eating, but we realize everyone needs a treat now and then, so we offer some recipes that use natural sweeteners like this Keto Chocolate Cake.
Mini Keto Chocolate Cakes
- 6 oz nondairy milk, room temperature
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
- 2/3 cup powdered monk fruit sweetener, sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 large eggs, room temp, beaten
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Place muffin liners in a tray.
Combine milk and apple cider vinegar. Set aside for 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, add the coconut flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, sweetener, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine.
Slowly add the eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Pour in the milk/vinegar and stir until thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly and bake in a preheated oven for 18-25 minutes. They’re done when a toothpick comes out clean.