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Nutrition News: Taming a Sweet Tooth

Charlyn Fargo on

Most of us know we probably need to cut back on the added sugars we consume, but how do you do that when you have a craving for something sweet?

These days, the average American eats an estimated 17 teaspoons of added sugar each day. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that added sugar consumption worldwide is at a "pandemic" stage. Research shows a clear association between eating too much table sugar and higher risk for tooth decay, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

An answer for some has been to use more artificial sweeteners. The Food and Drug Administration has declared all sweeteners on the market to be safe; however, they have been under scrutiny by other groups. Consumers have turned to more natural sugars, such as honey, maple syrup, molasses and coconut sugar. The truth is that sugar is sugar, whether it comes from sugar cane or a tree, and as sugar, it is high in calories.

Should you try other sweeteners? Stevia is a well-known natural sweetener, derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has no calories and no nutritional value but is sometimes blended with sugar alcohols, like erythritol. Monk fruit extract is another zero-calorie natural sweetener. The best sweetener is the one you enjoy eating. But like sugar, have them in moderation.

How can you tame a sweet tooth?

It's best to try for moderation rather than cutting out sugar completely. Aim for cutting back to six teaspoons a day for women and nine teaspoons for men, or about 10% of total calories, as recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines. Make swaps little by little rather than adopting an all-or-nothing mentality with sugar.

 

The bottom line? Over time, try to limit consumption of added sugars. Practice mindfulness when you eat a piece of candy or cake. Rather than having sugar daily, save it for a special occasion. Substitute fruit for that cookie, and over time, cravings will lessen.

Q and A

Q: Is taking a vitamin C supplement as good as getting vitamin C from foods?

A: Research has shown that getting the recommended amount of vitamin C from foods rather than supplements was associated with several positive health benefits: lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower risk of cancer of the stomach, esophagus, cervix and lung and lower risk of death. The same effect wasn't found for vitamin C supplements, which research found were associated with a higher risk of breast cancer and kidney stones. Foods high in vitamin C include many fruits and vegetables. The current recommended amount of vitamin C is 90 milligrams for men (ages 19 and older) and 75 milligrams for women. A cup of strawberries has about 58 milligrams of vitamin C; a medium orange or a cup of broccoli both have 70 milligrams.

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