I must say, we sure are a sugar-hungry nation. On average, Americans’ sugar intake is roughly 22 teaspoons a day, which adds up to 355 calories of sugar alone! That’s 20 percent more sugar than we were consuming nearly 40 decades ago—and it’s showing up in our hips and waistlines, blood sugar and blood pressure, and overall health.
When it comes to sugar intake, one of the biggest offenders is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). There’s even talk of an “anti-obesity” tax on this ubiquitous product, which has overtaken sucrose (white sugar) as the sweetener of choice in drinks and prepared foods. In fact, most of our excess sugar intake comes from beverages and processed foods.
So the next time you have a hankering for a soda or some convenience food or snack, think again. And don’t believe that HFCS-free products sweetened with “natural” sugars or fruit concentrates—or pure, concentrated fruit juice, for that matter—are any better. The end result, in terms of calories and fructose delivery, is pretty much the same.
Manage Your Sugar Intake With Natural Sugar Alternatives
Fortunately, to help you manage your sugar intake, there are a couple of safe sugar-free sweeteners you can use:
- Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), a plant native to South America, has a centuries-long history of use as both a flavoring and a therapeutic agent. As a natural sugar alternative, it’s about as good as they come, as it is calorie-free and does not affect blood sugar levels. Just a few drops of a liquid concentrate or a dusting of powdered stevia is all you need to lend sweetness to any food or drink. Stevia is the natural sugar alternative of choice at the Whitaker Wellness Institute and it should be your go-to sugar-free sweetener as well.
- Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, in the same category as sorbitol and mannitol. This sugar-free sweetener looks and tastes like sucrose, so it’s a “comfortable” sugar alternative and can be used in baking and the like. Although xylitol is not calorie-free, it is metabolized much more slowly than regular sugar and has an extremely low glycemic index, so it is safe for people with diabetes. It also has 40 percent fewer calories than sugar. (Note: Some people are sensitive to sugar alcohols and large doses can cause gastrointestinal distress.)
Both of these sugar alternatives can be found in most health food stores and through several online retailers.
Now it’s your turn: Have you found ways to reduce or eliminate your sugar intake?