Have a sweet tooth? Do cakes and pies call to you, despite any guilt for indulging? We've got some healthy alternatives for enjoying your desserts with less guilt, once you sort through a few myths and facts about sugar.
- Myth: Sugar is nothing but useless, empty calories!
First, sugar is sucrose, a molecule comprising carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, elements that make sugar a carbohydrate. Carbs, along with fat and protein, are a macronutrient, the energy source (burned as units of heat, or calories) essential for the body to live and function.So, sugar isn’t useless; it’s overused by the food industry and consumers, sending health problems out of control.
Types of sugar
- Myth: Sugar by any other name would be the same!
Actually, sugar falls into two different categories, with health effects we’ll discuss further on.
- Natural: Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains contain simple sugars. The beauty is, they also contain starches and fiber (complex carbs), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Added (processed, refined): Every pastry chef knows there are at least 15 types of processed sugar, from the ubiquitous white sugar down to bee’s honey, all used to flavor and preserve food. No added nutrients, just added “empty” calories.
What about sugar substitutes, or artificial sweeteners? Stevia is a popular plant-based choice on the FDA’s approved list of sweeteners. Stevia, or “candy leaf” (related to the daisy), is calorie-free, sweeter than sugar, and safer (LiveScience).
The bittersweet truth
- Myth: Sugar just leads to obesity and disease. Go sugar-free!
Remember, we need sugar. Can’t delete it, only reduce it. See, the body uses sugar the same way whether it’s natural or added; the problem is the amount we eat.
Source: American Heart Association
- One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar. (AHA)
- The average American consumes 22 teaspoons added sugar (350 calories) a day. (Harvard)
More added sugar means more calories to burn (before they store as fat) and can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. It takes a conscious effort to curb your sugar intake when even nonsweet, savory packaged and fast foods are laced with added sugar! Sometimes overdosing on sugar starts early, too, when virtual “sugar babies” consume sweetened baby food and formula. For example, one formula contained 3.8 grams (one teaspoon) added sugar per 5-ounce serving.
The plant path
- Myth: Plant-based sugars are a hassle to cook with and don’t taste as good.
But plants are the very origin of sugar! Think sugarcane and sugar beets. Switching to plants is just a return to basics –sweetness and energy wrapped in a natural, nutrient-dense package. Just cutting out sodas and limiting carbs will greatly reduce sugar in your diet. Also, check Bliss Returned’s list of fruits and veggies high (mangoes, peas) or low (apples, cherries) in sugar as a shopping guide.
Healthier treats just might reawaken your taste for the organic sweetness of plants. Explore Plant Based Kitchenista’s recipes as a whole new culinary world unfolds. Not into cooking? Try Veestro food delivery for heat-and-serve plant-based dishes.
The sweet life!
Taking baby steps in a new direction sugar-wise is a great start. Or, dive deeper with University of California’s Sugar: The Bitter Truth video for more data to digest. Bottom line, you simply can’t lose by switching to plant-based foods for better health. To that end, Veestro meals and desserts offer a super-easy, guilt-free approach to the sweet life!
Ann Jamerson, Importance of Sugar in the Human Body, SFGATE
Aviva Patz, Is Sugar Really That Bad for You?, Health.com
Added Sugars, AHA