By now, you probably know you should lower your sugar impact. Too much sugar causes weight gain, inflammation, and makes you feel rotten. Sugar has been linked to increased chances of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity and metabolic syndrome.1 Nobody wants that!
But avoiding sugar isn’t as simple as skipping candy bars and fountain drinks.
Many of the “healthy” choices people make in the name of going sugar-free are just as bad. Click to tweet
You know to avoid soft drinks, but do you know not to drink fruit juice?
Skipping the fountain drinks is a pretty obvious step when it comes to lowering your sugar intake and risk for disease. In fact, studies show that even lightly sweetened drinks can be enough to impair your metabolism and hold on to fat, making you gain weight.2
What you might not know is that, when it comes to sugar, drinking fruit juice is just as bad as downing a bottle of Pepsi! Ounce for ounce, many fruit juices have almost exactly the same sugar content as the bottles lining the soft drink aisle.3
When you turn fruit into juice, you remove all the fiber and allow the fructose (the sugar that comes from fruit) to roam free, causing a huge, immediate impact on your blood glucose levels. That challenge strains your whole body and can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and worse. You’re much better off with fruit-infused water. (Check out this article for flavor suggestions.)
You know to avoid high-fructose corn syrup, but do you know not to eat sugar-free jam?
High-fructose corn syrup has a deservedly bad reputation. Research shows that a diet high in fructose is linked to higher body fat and lower levels of physical activity.4 Fructose has also been proven to damage over 500 genes related to brain function and memory.5 In other words, fructose makes you fat and forgetful! (There’s a tagline you’re not likely to hear in a commercial anytime soon…)
So if you’re avoiding sugar, it seems like something labeled “sugar-free” should be safe, right? Before you start slathering on the “simply fruit” jam, check the label. Jams and preserves sweetened with fruit juice and syrups can still be labeled “no sugar added,” but their fructose content is sky-high.
Some sugar-free options are also made with alternative sweeteners like honey or agave (see below) or include artificial sweeteners that can cause their own multitude of health issues. The takeaway? Trade the sugar-free jam and toast for a delicious gluten-free wrap with fresh fruit and nut butter.
You know to avoid table sugar, but do you know not to use honey or agave?
Most of us know better than to spoon granulated sugar into our morning cup of tea for all the reasons given above. But adding honey or agave isn’t a big improvement.
While nutrients in honey can have health benefits for those suffering from local seasonal allergies, it takes regular servings of 3-5 tablespoons to see results.6 Because honey is broken down into glucose and fructose, eating that much daily can still cause problems, especially for those with diabetes or other blood sugar issues. Unfortunately, smaller amounts of honey carry all of the sugar impact and none of the healthful benefits.
As for agave, welcome to one of this decade’s biggest health food hoaxes. Most agave “nectar” or syrup is created in a lab and has up to 90% fructose – even more than high-fructose corn syrup! This is one time when marketing definitely won out over common sense, and it’s time to reject agave for the horrible health risk that it is.
As with all of your health decisions, information can go a long way toward helping you look and feel your best. If you still need some tips for finding natural sweetener options that won’t harm your health, here’s a blog post with 5 easy rules to help you choose wisely.
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