Many of us enjoy treats like ice cream, cookies, donuts, candy, and other candies, but the refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup that give these treats the taste we love have been shown to be addicting by several studies (some suggest how addictive substances like illegal drugs) i.e. the more sugar we consume, the more cravings we have, which leads to a true sugar frenzy.
In summary, this seems to be true: The amount of sugar the average American eats annually has been rising steadily for several decades. According to the American Heart Association, adults gain about 60 pounds of added sugar each year, three times more than most nutritionists recommend women and almost twice as much as men.
This increase is a problem for several reasons. First, too much sugar can lead to weight gain, which can lead to a myriad of health problems. Helen Jones, Regional Advisor on Nutrition, Nutrition and Health with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, explains how reducing sugar intake can lead to healthier weight and better health outcomes. “Less added sugar can help stop the weight gain and fat accumulation associated with heart disease,” she said. “According to the American Dietary Guidelines, you only need 15% of your calories from added sugar.”
Even if you have the metabolism of a hummingbird (or some other blessing from the weight gods) and sugar doesn’t make you carry around a few extra pounds, a high-sugar diet can have other negative effects as it can make you skyrocket Likelihood of developing serious health conditions and diseases. “Even if you are a healthy weight, reducing sugar can potentially lower your risk of heart disease,” said Jones. She notes that consuming too much sugar can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, non-alcoholic fatty liver, high cholesterol, dental caries, and more.
“Reducing the amount of sugar in a diet can help a person reduce their risk for any health condition that has been linked to excess sugar,” she said. “And replacing high-sugar foods with healthy options can help a person get all of their essential vitamins and minerals without adding extra calories.”
While reducing the amount of sugar in your diet requires determination and willpower, it also takes a little bit of work. Not only is sugar found in the obvious products like desserts and snacks, but it also lurks (in alarmingly high levels) in many packaged and processed savory foods like pasta sauce, marinades, and canned soups. This “hidden” sugar does not let many of us know how much sugar we are consuming. Therefore, it is important to carefully read the ingredient lists and nutritional information on any food you buy.
Jones also recommends setting realistic and achievable goals and not being overly restrictive too quickly. “People who want to adopt a sugar-free diet should do so gradually. Alternating diets or eating sugar on special occasions can help some people deal with the loss of sweetness in their diet, ”she said.
In some cases, going 100% sugar-free isn’t necessary for optimal health. In many cases, moderation is key. “Reducing sugar is a good idea for many people as it helps reduce the risk of numerous diseases and can improve a person’s overall health,” said Jones.
She warns that simply going without sugar does not guarantee weight loss or a long, healthy life. “Eliminating sugar from your diet is not a complete solution to weight loss. It’s part of a lifestyle change that should include regular exercise and a nutritious diet, ”she said. “Anyone who wants to start on a sugar-free diet should speak to a doctor, nutritionist or nutritionist, especially if they have previous health conditions.”
Whichever route is best for your personal health – low or no sugar – you don’t have to be constantly deficient. Check out these sugar-free recipes that deliver flavor without the harmful effects of excess sugar.
Sugar-free peanut butter cups
Robin O’Sullivan admits she has a little problem with the peanut butter cup. “They are probably my favorite food,” she said. “I could eat them all day.” However, trying not to really overload her diet with sugar and calories, she often opts for this sugar-free version of the sweet treat.
“I’ve tried several variations and I think this one tastes great. There is no aftertaste that can sometimes be with sugar substitutes, ”O’Sullivan said. Bonus: it’s easy. “It will take some time because you have to freeze them, but the steps are pretty simple.”
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
½ cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons of liquid sweetener
3/4 cup peanut butter
Coarse sea salt
Mix coconut oil, cocoa powder and liquid sweetener in a bowl. Fill a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill each liner 1/4 full with cocoa mixture. Put 2 teaspoons of peanut butter in the middle. Spread the remaining cocoa mixture on the liners and pour over peanut butter. Sprinkle each peanut butter cup with coarse sea salt. Freeze for 1 hour.
Robin O’Sullivan, Chef of the Month
Brooke Burks from The Buttered Home uses Swerve as a sweetener for her homemade brownies. (The Buttered House)
Sugar free Homemade brownies
Homemade brownies are easier than you think. Now you can have them sugar free. With a whole new market of great sugar substitutes to replace cup after cup, even those of us who watch our sugar can enjoy candies made with ingredients common in your pantry and refrigerator from time to time. Simple and tasty, these are a real crowd-pleaser, and you don’t even have to say they’re sugar-free. You can find more recipes at thebutteredhome.com.
1 1/4 cup self-rising flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of sugar substitute
1 cup of melted butter
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients well with a whisk. Add the wet ingredients one at a time and mix well after each addition. Lightly spray a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Spread the brownie mix evenly in the pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, cut and serve.
The buttered home
Sugar-free banana muffins
3 large or 4 medium very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
3 cups of almond flour
1/4 cup of granulated Swerve sweetener
Walnut chips, optional
12 baking cups
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the baking molds in the muffin tin. Mix the bananas, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, sweetener and salt with a powerful mixer until smooth. Add almond flour and mix just enough to combine. Scrape off the sides and mix in a little more. Divide the batter into 12 muffin cups with an ice cream scoop. I add walnut chips and push them down. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown or when a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool down and enjoy. Store in a cool, dry place for five days. They can be frozen for three months.
Denise Swann’s sugar-free banana muffins contain very ripe bananas that are mixed well with other ingredients, including the sweetener Swerve. (contributed)
Diabetic Pound Cake
2 cups of flour
½ cup of corn oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large bananas
1½ tablespoons of liquid sweetener
4 tablespoons of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1½ cups nuts (mixed or pecans)
1 cup of raisins
Mix the eggs, oil, vanilla, bananas and sweetener together. Add the flour, soda, and buttermilk. Mix well. Add nuts and raisins. Bake in a tube pan at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Let cool before removing from the pan.
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons PB2 (powder peanut butter)
1 banana (if not a banana, use less sugar substitute)
2 tablespoons of collagen powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon sugar substitute
Put the sliced banana in the blender. Add all remaining ingredients and mix together. Ice can be added and mixed into shake. It tastes a lot like a Reese’s Cup milkshake.
This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.