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Natural or Artificial Sugar?

Natural or Artificial Sugar?

USA-  A typical American can consume around 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. To put this in perspective, this is about the same as eating a serving of jelly beans, nine Hershey's Kisses, a couple of brownies and a Double Stuff Oreo cookie. You might think this is a bit extreme, but nowadays this is what is creeping into our everyday foods in scary numbers. About 75 percent of pre-packaged food, which includes breakfast cereals, granola, yogurts, as well as fruit-flavoured yogurt, bread, soups and even condiments now contain added sugar, which in turn is making us intake unnecessary amounts of sugar daily, not including dessert. You don't need a nutritional expert or Doctor to let you know that this is too much sugar for us and is in no way helping us. But is important to know how bad it can be. As time goes on, sugar can work against your metabolism, weight problems, the risk of heart disease, tooth decay and diabetes, it can also make acne worse. You should know a couple of facts about sugar before learning how to combat it and turn the clock back. There are natural sugars, these can be in foods such as fruits, milk and yogurt, but they don't have the same health issues that added sugars have. For example, whole foods are a natural way of getting natural substances like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fibre from fruits. Sugars coming from these foods are good so you don't need to worry about having them. Fruit is good for you, but you have to watch your intake of fruit juice. There is no fibre in juice as a cup of juice has more sugar than a single piece of fruit, this is because you get more fructose. You may not want to have more than 1 cup of fruit juice per day for you and your children.

The American Heart Association wants you to not have more than 9 teaspoons of sugar for men and 6 teaspoons of sugar for women. Some sugar is fine, and even better when you are adding it to nutritious foods, like adding maple syrup to roasted carrots or some honey over fruit in an overnight oatmeal, these are foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals and other healthy ingredients. Just make sure you drizzle the sugars, not pouring the sugar. In order to make sure you are not having added sugars, you have to learn how to spot them, which can be hard to do. Nowadays sugar comes in a variety of forms and names, including brown sugar, cane sugar, coconut palm sugar, evaporated cane sugar and agave, there is also fruit juice concentrate which comes in the form of apple or pear juice, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey and brown rice syrup. There are also many different ways of coding sugars that are added to products. Current food labels are not very clear when it comes to labelling as it lists the amount of total sugars but not the different types of sugar. There is also the way sugar gets calculated as most food labels are measured in grams and most people tend to use tablespoon measurements. A tablespoon is usually 4 grams. There are plans for new labelling of sugar but that won't be available till 2020 but you can compare within products by looking at the nutrition facts label and look for foods that have the lowest content of sugars, you can also try to do your own calculations. Keep in mind 9 grams of sugar is equal to more than 2 tablespoons. Another thing to keep in mind is that sugars that sound healthy can also cause problems to your health. Some like molasses and maple syrups contain little minerals and antioxidants that you should not try to eat them to get those health benefits. 

The latest government report states that 49 percent of adults and 63 percent of children are drinking more sugary drinks each day. Sugar sweeteners are the main source of the added sugars in our diet. Not only do these sugary drinks contain high calories, they also have no nutrition at all. It is known that the human body does not process calories from sugary drinks the same way it does from food, they will make your body collect and store more fat. Getting rid of your sugary drink and replacing with an unsweetened one is a good idea, whether you like to sip on sugary soda, tea with added sugar or a fancy coffee drink, cutting back on them would be beneficial to your body. Matcha lattes or sweetened chai teas sound healthy but are often packed with sugar. A grocery store is usually the place where you can find sugar hidden the most. For example, Honey Nut Cheerios a very popular breakfast cereal has the same amount of sugar as your old-fashioned donut, plain Greek yogurt has about 4 grams of natural sugars but having a flavoured option can contain about 16 grams of sugar, not to mention that your granola bar could also have that much sugar hidden. Just because something is natural or organic does not mean is low in sugar, don't be tricked into this, make sure to always look at the labels and pick the choice with the lowest amount of sugar. Replacing sugars with artificial sugars is also not the best move for you. Even though these sweeteners have sucralose, saccharin and aspartame, they are considered safe by the FDA, which tells us there no clear cancer risk, but there are still some questions about that. Some studies show that using artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain, however, they are unsure if people gain weight from using the artificial sweeteners or if people who have gained weight turn to artificial sweeteners. 

Christopher Gardner, Ph.D., Professor Medicine at Stanford Prevention Research Center. Dr. Gardner explains that all these zero calorie sweeteners may be causing us to crave sugary foods and drinks and make the natural sugars like fruits be less appealing, its also possible that these sugar may cause confusion, make you feel hungrier as it causes calorie confusion to your body which in turn makes you feel like you need to consume more food and calories, all of these things are not good for your body. There is also your bodies microbiome which is the ecosystem that delivers healthy gut bacteria to help your immune system and more, studies have shown that artificial sugars can change this in ways that work against the natural gut flora. This has been linked to allergies and obesity, though studies are far away from knowing actual facts this study does help by giving a clue. It is important to note that this study was done on animals, though the human body does have a lot in common with the animals. If you are still thinking sugar substitutes are good for you like Stevia or Monk Fruit Extract you may want to read all the evidence and disadvantages as described here. Dr. Gardner says this comes down to personal choices but he does suggest avoiding artificial sweeteners as they are only a bit less healthy than the regular sugar, there are no artificial sweeteners in cauliflower, broccoli, kale, eggs, salmon or grass fed beef and pasture raised poultry. Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc, senior scientist and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the HNRCA, Stanley N. Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at the Friedman School, mentions there is some room to wiggle, in a perfect world we would drink water rather than sugary drinks, but this is not always the case and the benefits and risks need to be considered, even though the research and science is still questionable, there is no doubt that the health outcomes of sugar intake, including sugary drinks have bad health outcomes for us. 


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