Eating too much sugar is bad for your health. To cut back try sweetening foods with whole fruits instead.
“Remember that our early human ancestors’ only sweet taste — other than honey, which had to be hard earned by fighting off bees — was fruit. Before the advent of making sugar, which was fairly recent in our history, we only relied on fruits for that naturally sweet taste,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Sharon Palmer, known as The Plant-Powered Dietitian.
“Research has linked too much sugar with increased risk of obesity, as well as cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Plus, you crowd out healthful foods such as legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables when you eat sweets. These foods contain healthful properties, while sugar contains no healthful nutrients whatsoever,” Palmer said.
As opposed to added sugars, natural sugars come in complex foods, like fruits and vegetables, which contain fiber and other nutrients like protein, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
“The sugars are more slowly released into the bloodstream when they are contained in a whole food. When they are consumed in their isolated form, such as in table sugar, they are absorbed much more quickly into the bloodstream,” Palmer said.
Additionally, refined sugars like table sugar provide little sense of fullness.
“You can drink a sugary soda and not feel full, even after consuming 150 calories. However, you can eat a large pear that has naturally occurring sugars and feel more satisfied because of the fiber and chewing qualities of eating that food,” Palmer said.
The average American consumes around 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the federal 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“We all should be reducing our added sugars — the isolated ones, such as in white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave — to no more than 10% of your daily calories,” Palmer said. “So, if the average person consumes 2,000 calories per day, that would mean no more than 200 should come from added sugars. This is an even smaller amount for children, who need fewer calories.”
Try these tips to unleash the natural sweetening power of whole fruits:
• Include natural sweeteners such as bananas, applesauce, pureed fruit, chopped dates and dried fruits in place of the added sugars in baked goods, smoothies, desserts and cereals. “Just keep in mind that things like mashed or pureed fruit will have some liquid, so you may have to cut back on the liquid in your recipe if it’s something like a cake, cookies or muffins,” Palmer said.
• For things like smoothies or oatmeal, just skip all of the added sugar and include fruit as your sweetener.
• Cut down on the sugar when trying new recipes. “I automatically cut it in half, as often things don’t need to be that sweet,” Palmer said.
• When making pies, crisps or cobblers skip the added sugar all together. “Naturally ripe fruit is sweet enough. Sometimes I add a bit of 100% apple or orange juice to the fruit filling as a natural sweetener and liquid,” Palmer said. Be sure to use ripe fruit for best results.
“I love to recommend fruit pies, cobblers, crisps as a fruit-forward dessert. You can fit in a whole serving of fruits and have a treat, too,” Palmer said. “If you can cut out the sugar, they are especially more healthful. And it’s a good example for people to see that you can enjoy fruits without the added sugars,”
When a person starts consuming less sugar their palate will change, becoming accustomed to less-sweet foods.
“I have gotten used to a more naturally sweet taste. You’d be surprised how good the recipes taste with less sugar and more fruits,” Palmer said.