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SUGAR 101

MAGGIE O'MEARA

Our society today tends to fear sugar. There is still much confusion around the amount of sugar we can eat, artificial sweeteners, and how we can really lower our intake in a country that thrives on sweets. And is it okay to eat that slice of cake that we really want? Getting the facts straight on sugar can be helpful when making

 

 

How Much Sugar Can You Eat in a Day?

Well, the World Health Organization recommends only 10% of your daily calories should be from sugar, which is about 3 tablespoons. But on average, Americans are consuming nearly 20 tablespoons of sugar a day! Eating or drinking too much sugar causes inflammation in the body that leads to premature aging, impaired immune system, and energy spikes or “sugar rushes” that in turn lead to crashes later. By intaking less sugar, you can have more steady energy throughout the day, as well as function at your body’s best. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out sugar completely! Try opting for fresh fruit, some dark chocolate, or a small portion of dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

 

 

Artificial Sweeteners

Everyone knows those little, pastel-colored sugar packets that are offered at every coffee shop or diner. Splenda, Equal, and Sweet ’N Low are the most common artificial sweeteners that are found in diet sodas, light or “skinny” food products, or “sugar-free” candies. These sweeteners don’t provide any calories, so they are pretty enticing to consumers. Yet, artificial sweeteners are unnatural, processed chemical compounds that are not meant to be in the body. This can be detrimental to our health because they possibly can cause cancer and slowed metabolism (according to animal studies). They also are hard for our bodies to digest which can cause bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea, or constipation. Try staying away from these alluring sweeteners if possible, and just indulge (a bit!) in the real stuff. Instead of eating a whole bunch of sugar-free, processed, packaged brownies, just eat that one homemade, real-sugar brownie that you really desire. If you are going to eat a sweet treat, you might as well enjoy the real thing in moderation!

 

 

The Case of India

We all know that the United States loves their sugar because it is a very common ingredient in recipes, at restaurants, in food products, and in your home pantry. Conversely, India is a country that eats the least amount of sugar, with the average person only eating about 5 grams of sugar per day. This could be due to India’s cuisine that is heavy in legumes, grains, vegetables, dairy, and fruit. With more savory and spicy dishes, sugar is not needed as much in cooking as it is in American food. Instead of sugar, the important ingredients in Indian food is spices and herbs. The most common spices used are chili pepper, cumin, black mustard seed, ginger, and garlic.

Even for sweet Indian dishes or desserts, spices are often used such as cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal. This use of spices over sugar reflects India’s low obesity rate compared with other countries. Try adding cinnamon to your oatmeal or coffee instead of your usual sweetener. Cinnamon is anti-inflammatory, still adds a sweet taste, and reduces fasting blood sugar levels. Your body will thank you for using less sugar or sweeteners!

 

 

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