Choosing Natural Sugars
Avert health risks and improve your diet with superior sweetening options.
There are many good reasons to reduce refined sugars from our diet. Perhaps, the best reason is to swap them out for tastier and more diverse options. But the evidence for making this change has been adding up and worth considering when you are planning your family’s meals.
One fact you may find surprising is that the United States spends more on health than any other nation and yet, we are still at the bottom of health outcomes. One major contributing factor is inflammation. Typically, this is how the body responds to pain (fevers), and some is good.
However, our commodity crops in United States, (corn and soy) cause the biggest health issues (soybean/corn oil = increase in Omega 6) and EVERY processed food contains some version of corn or soy. To help you remember general guidelines, think of Omega 3 as anti-inflammatory and Omega 6 as inflammatory. Both are essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t make, so we must get them from diet.
There are many good Omega 3 sources, such as cold water fish such as grass-fed beef, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish, walnuts, and flax seed. Omega 6 sources we must limit: grain-fed beef, vegetable oils, such as soy oil, are used in most of the snack foods, cookies, crackers, and sweets in the American diet as well as in fast food. Soybean oil alone is now so common in fast foods and processed foods that an astounding 20 percent of the calories in the American diet are estimated to come from this single source.
Many nutrition experts believe that before we relied so heavily on processed foods, humans consumed omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in roughly equal amounts. But to our great detriment, most North Americans and Europeans now get far too much of the omega-6s and not enough of the omega-3s. This dietary imbalance may explain the rise of such diseases as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body.
Sugar is our biggest source of inflammation and made of two components: fructose and glucose
WHY is FRUCTOSE bad?
- Fructose is the issue in sugar sources. “Fruit sugar”, as it can be called, is deemed healthy and “natural” but so is arsenic and petroleum.
- Fructose is low on the Glycemic Index because it cannot be metabolized.
- If we ended sweetened liquids, then we would be hugely ahead of the crisis.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE EAT FRUCTOSE?
- Your body processes fructose differently
- Fructose is broken down in the liver and doesn’t provoke any “full feeling” (empty calories)
- Glucose starts to break down in the stomach and requires the release of insulin into the bloodstream to be metabolized completely
- It messes with appetite hormone, leptin, not used at energy, causing us to eat more
- It wreaks havoc on our liver (fatty liver disease) and “microbiome” aka gut health
- It turns into fat
What about fruit?
- Fruit has fiber present. Fruit juice is a concentrated sugar source. Eat your fruit!
Fructose by %, what’s worst (to best) forms of sugar for us:
Agave 90% *just because it is “natural” doesn’t mean you should eat it!!!!
HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) 55%
Coconut sugar/nectar/syrup 38-48%
Maple syrup/honey 35-45%
So, how much is ok?
How much are we really consuming?
6-9 teaspoons/day is what the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association notes as daily recommendations
A “healthy” eater who consumes:
An “average” eater who consumes:
- Salad with balsamic dressing
- 65% dark chocolate small bar
- Medjool dates
- Chai tea with honey
- Muesli with fruit and yogurt
- =24 teaspoons
- Teriyaki chicken with rice
- Vitamin water
- Blueberry muffin
- Banana bread
- Happy hour drink
- =48 teaspoons
Inflammation is the root of many health care issues and can cause:
Increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s
ADD/ADHD (lack of concentration)
Aging of the body
Weakening of the bones
So now what?
LIMIT foods that have corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, malt syrup, glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose as ingredients
LIMIT processed foods especially for children who are the most affected
ADD low fructose fruit: berries, kiwi, grapefruit
LEARN about your food labels. For example, they list ingredients in descending order, the higher sugars appear in the ingredient list, the more the product contains.
How Much Sugar is There?
Food Serving Sugar
Yoplait yogurt 1.5 T 4.5t
Fage Greek yogurt 2 T 7.25t
Catalina dressing 2T 2t
Coconut water 1 serving 2.75t
BBQ sauce 2T 4t
Banana 1 med 4t
Snapple tea 1 bottle 9t
20 oz coke 1 serving 16.25t
Ben and Jerry’s pint 1/4 serving 6.25t
Ketchup 1 T 1t
Flavored latte Small 6t
Naked juice 1 bottle 13.25t
Honey Nut Cheerios 3/4c 2.25t
Total raisin bran 1c 4t
Anti-Inflammatory Powerhouse Foods
Blueberries: Having one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all fruit and vegetables.
Tea: Both green and black tea leaves have lots of anti-inflammatory properties. Lots of polyphenols antioxidants.
Fermented Foods: Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut is important for your immune system and fighting inflammation. Fermented foods are loaded with probiotics. (Kimchi is a good example).
Garlic and Ginger: Well-known for their antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial/anti-inflammatory properties.
Knowledge is power.
You can cut down on omega-6 levels by reducing consumption of processed and fast foods and polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, soy, and cottonseed, for example). At home, use extra virgin olive oil/coconut oil for cooking and in salad dressings. Eat more oily fish or take fish oil supplements, walnuts, flax seeds, and omega-3 fortified eggs. And the easiest fix, just a little reduction in our sugar intake goes a long, long, way. Your body will definitely thank you.
Anti-Inflammatory Beet Salad
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
Yields: 4 servings Cook: 30 minutes
4 medium beets, scrubbed, trimmed, and cut in bite size pieces
¼ C. balsamic vinegar
¼ C. olive oil
1 t. Dijon mustard
2 T. maple syrup
¼ C. walnuts
2 oz. goat cheese*
Kosher salt and black pepper
Mixed baby salad greens
- Roast in oven 400 degrees, 25 min. in parchment pouch
- Toast walnuts in a skillet over medium heat to warm. Stir in maple syrup. Coat evenly and remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk the Dijon, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and set aside.
- Plate greens and place equal amounts of walnuts and beets over greens. Top with crumbled goat cheese and dressing drizzle.
by Courtney Daylong, Health + Nutrition Coach