Some researchers have gone as far as calling sugar a poison or toxin
Who doesn’t love sugar? Humans are attracted to sweetness from birth. Look around — at the supermarket, food ads, in the ingredients of the products you consume — and it’s clear that sugar is EVERYWHERE. The obvious places come to mind immediately: candies and pastries, cookies and cakes, frostings and icing, soft drinks and soda, chocolate fudge and ice cream. Is your mouth watering yet? (Mine is.) Then there are the hidden sources... places you may have never thought you’d find added sugar. Like canned fruits and veggies, “healthy” crackers and cereals, flavored waters, tomato sauce, granola bars, yogurts, and bottled salad dressings, just to name a few. You wouldn’t associate many of those foods with high sugar content, but take a moment to study the ingredients and the amount of sugar these products actually contain. You may be surprised.
What’s so bad about sugar? Sugar is yum. It brightens our lives. It makes parties fun, studying sessions more enjoyable, and special events more special.
The problem is that too much sugar can have a devastating effect on our health. So much so that some researchers have gone as far as calling sugar a poison or toxin! Excessive sugar intake can lead to overweight and obesity, which in turn vastly increase the risk of heart attacks, cancers, type 2 diabetes, and many other diseases. Of course, sugar wreaks havoc on our innocent teeth. Certain studies have shown that sugar adversely affects the brain — particularly the developing brains of kids and teens! Consuming excess sugar is about more than just body weight — even at a healthy weight, too much sugar can cause health problems.
How Much is Too Much?
It’s hard to answer that question. Studies have not definitively proven what a safe amount of sugar might be. Current guidelines advise limiting teens’ intake of added sugars to six teaspoons a day. (Note that many teens consume over 23 teaspoons of added sugar every day!)
Sugar occurs naturally in many healthy foods, such a fresh fruits, veggies, and grains. The main problem is consuming added sugars, which provide no nutritional benefit. Eating processed foods is the easiest way to have too much sugar.
Great Ways to Cut Sugar
Use homemade tomato sauce or salsa instead of ketchup — healthier and yummier.
Buy plain yogurt instead of sweetened yogurt. Like it sweet? Try mixing in baked apples (chop them up, add a bit of water and cinnamon, and place in a hot oven — yum!), frozen berries, or juicy pieces of fresh fruit like cantaloupe, pears, or mango.
Choose brands of crackers and pretzels without added sugar. Check the ingredients!
Avoid sugary drinks. Quench your thirst with water! If you find it difficult to drink water plain, try popping slices of lemon or lime into your pitcher, or drinking sugar-free herbal iced-tea.
If you must have that sweet drink, try diluting your beverage with some water. It may still hit the spot, while saving you some sugar.
Include more fresh fruits and veggies in your snacks. Grapes, cherry tomatoes, and bananas are quick, easy to prepare, and easy to transport to school. On long school days, you can be kind to your body and fuel it with real food.
Sweet and healthy days to all!
DID YOU KNOW? Dried fruit, while boasting certain health benefits, is chock-full of sugar. Try to get the natural kind, which doesn’t have added sugar. And even then, moderation is the key.
DID YOU KNOW? Sugar might not always show up as “sugar” on your ingredients list. Look out for these other terms, which all mean “sugar”: high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, cane sugar, beet sugar, honey, syrup, molasses, sucrose, maltose, and fructose.
DID YOU KNOW? Using chemical sweeteners instead of sugar might seem like a win-win situation. But the truth is that many artificial sweeteners are even worse for your health than sugar is. The best sweetener? Hashem’s fruit. Pureed dates, bananas, and raisins can form the base of healthy, tasty, and nutritious baked goods. And of course, fresh fruit is the best snack for a sweet tooth attack!
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 902)
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