In the past, some of the SweetLeaf® blogs have looked at the litany of illnesses to which sugar is a major contributor. For those unfamiliar with the ever-lengthening list of sugar-related illnesses, here are four major issues that sugar can trigger:
Surprisingly, there is a causal link between several of the illnesses on that list:
- Excessive dietary sugars may contribute to obesity which may contribute to diabetes which may contribute to heart disease
- Excessive dietary sugars may contribute to periodontal disease which may contribute to heart disease
Note that sugar is the root cause in each of those scenarios. Cutting down on one’s sugar intake is clearly a move toward better health. The American Heart Association agrees, suggesting a daily limit of 36 grams, or 9 teaspoons, for men and 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, for women and for children 2-18 years. Children under 2 should have no sugar in their diet.
Additionally, to get children started on a path leading to long, heart-healthy lives, Healthy Eating Research, has published the first ever guidelines for what kids, ages five and under, should be drinking. The guidelines were created in conjunction with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association, which provided the following summary for reference:
The difficulty in reducing sugar in one’s diet is that it’s addictive and it’s in many foods, beverages and recipes. Along with swapping sugar for SweetLeaf®, what can one do to reduce sugar from one’s diet? Here’s a short list on how to start a reduced-sugar life:
- Avoid sugary beverages – Everyone knows that soda not only contributes calories galore, but soda has no nutritional value. Other sugar-laden beverages, like fruit juice, may have some nutritional value, but that small benefit is outweighed by the large amount of sugar most fruit juices contain. Fruit smoothies can be even worse, containing upwards of 50 grams of sugar. Energy drinks are another popular beverage, but they also contain a considerable amount of sugar—from 24-29 grams per 8-ounce can.
- Avoid low-fat foods – In a previous blog, we discussed the myth that fat was the main cause of heart disease, even though research has proven that your heart’s big enemies are sugars and carbs. Many people, still believing fat to be dangerous, seek out low-fat or fat-free foods, and those foods are often packed with sugar. Here’s are two striking examples from Healthline:
- Four ounces of low-fat vanilla yogurt is 96 calories and contains 16 grams of sugar
- Four ounces of full-fat yogurt is 69 calories and contains 5 grams of naturally occurring milk sugar
- Eight ounces of a low-fat mocha drink is 160 calories with 26 grams of added sugar
- Eight ounces of coffee with whole milk is 18 calories with 2 grams of naturally occurring milk sugar
- Eat more protein and fat – it’s counterintuitive to all we’ve been taught, but in the choice between sugar and fat, it may be better to choose fat. Excessive sugar not only causes weight gain, but also increases one’s appetite, by throwing off the signals in the brain that let you know you’re full. Protein has been shown to reduce cravings, with one study showing that a 25% increase in dietary protein reduced cravings by 60%.
- Read nutrition labels – Starting this month—January 2020—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring food manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales to clearly show total sugars and added sugars on all nutrition labels. Smaller companies have an additional year to make the change. Reading a product’s ingredients can be confusing because sugar uses about 60 aliases. The new nutrition labels—shown below, courtesy of the FDA—will clearly show the amount of sugars, no matter how they’re disguised:
- Get a full night’s sleep – It may seem unrelated, but research shows two things happen after a sleepless night: the part of the brain that controls decision making is impaired and the part of the brain that responds to rewards and that controls motivation and desire are stimulated. Those changes mean that a lack of sleep causes a craving for high-calorie, sweet and salty foods. Another study found that people who went to bed late and didn’t get a full night’s sleep consumed more calories, junk food, and soda, compared to those receiving a full-night’s sleep.
The benefits of reducing or eliminating dietary sugar go beyond reducing the risks for obesity, diabetes and coronary disease. According to Health, additional benefits are:
- Younger-looking skin – High blood sugar levels can hinder repair of collagen, the protein that keeps skin looking plump. Sugar can also lead to reduced elasticity and premature wrinkles.
- Longer-lasting energy – Sugar goes directly into your bloodstream, providing the familiar sugar rush of immediate, but short-lived, energy. Cutting out or reducing sugar and eating foods high in protein and fats provides steadier, longer-lasting energy.
- Reduced belly fat – Eating sugary foods spikes blood sugar, which triggers insulin, which causes fat to accumulate around one’s middle. These fat cells are formed deep in the abdomen and can travel to other organs and blood vessels, causing inflammation which can contribute to cancer and heart disease. Reducing sugar reduces belly fat with reduces your risk for those two life-threatening diseases.
Of course, as stated earlier, a big step to reducing added sugar is to substitute sugar for plant-based SweetLeaf® Stevia. SweetLeaf® has a glycemic index of zero and doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. SweetLeaf® can take the place of sugar in foods, beverages, and recipes.
And speaking of recipes, check out our hundreds of low-sugar recipes for appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. For your own favorite recipes, substituting SweetLeaf® for sugar is especially easy with the interactive Stevia Conversion Calculator or the handy Stevia Conversion Chart.
The SweetLeaf® family of sweeteners includes great tasting SweetLeaf® Stevia or SweetLeaf® Organic Stevia in packets or shaker jar, six fruity flavors of Water Drops®, 17 delicious flavors of Sweet Drops® in 2-ounce bottles, or five of the most popular flavors of Sweet Drops in portable, BPA-free, 50ml squeeze bottles. SweetLeaf® products are available online at ShopSweetLeaf®.com, or at a store near you.
Enjoy SweetLeaf® today and start the new year right by reducing dietary sugars in the tastiest way possible.