Sugar is actually good for us. Sugar fuels our brain and provides quick energy. At least that is the case with sugar before it is fully processed and transformed into the white substance we normally see. Sugar cane contains minerals and vitamins (like calcium, phosphorus, chromium, magnesium, cobalt, copper, zinc, and manganese). All those nutrients and the fiber in the sugar cane help us digest the sugar. When we consume sugar without the other nutrients (as is the case in white sugar) the body can be forced to leach calcium from bones and other tissues to help process the sugar. So how much sugar should we get a day?
Two hundred years ago it is estimated that Americans ate about 10 pounds of refined sugar per year. Today that poundage is estimated to be 156 pounds per person per year. This does not include sugars from whole fruits or dairy products. Just added sugar (white sugar, sugar cane, honey, maple syrup, agave, etc).
The American Heart Association recommends 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men or less. There are four grams per teaspoon. So that is 24 grams for women and 36 grams for men.
Types of Sweet Stuff
While white sugar has nothing beneficial for the body. Lots of types of sugar offer some health benefits with the sweet boost. Maple syrup and molasses for example have some vitamins and minerals. As a bee keeper one of my favorite sweeteners is honey. Though honey scores high on the glycemic index (higher than table sugar), it is filled with vitamins and minerals (like riboflavin, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and more). It is also anti bacterial and has been used throughout history in wound healing both to help healing and reduce infection. Honey in the raw—not heated or pasteurized. Once we start processing our food, it loses its original, beneficial qualities.
How Much Sugar Do You Eat?
What does that mean for you and sugar? Can you just start to notice how much you consume in a day? In a serving? Not counting naturally occurring sugars like fruit and dairy sugars, could you eat less that 24-36 grams per day? Could you try not to have more than 8 grams in one serving? How many of your regular treats and go-to foods would be off the list if you tried to follow that? How many grams are you getting in an average day right now?
Sugar Sneaks into Food
Just starting to notice is the first step in any change you may want to implement. I know looking at how much sugar I have been eating lately is surprising. It is really hard to eat less than 24 grams a day. Especially if I eat a granola bar or jarred spaghetti sauce. Added sugar sneaks into everything we buy. According to the Starbucks website the 12 ounce mocha latte I enjoy has 28 grams of sugar—more than my daily allowance. One pump of syrup has nearly 5 grams of sugar. Since I’ve been watching my sugar, I’ve asked them to do one pump instead of the standard three that goes into the mocha. And it tastes fine. That change, which I’m comfortable with, means a difference of over a pound a year for me. I only stop there about twice a week.
What is one change you can implement not to cut out sugar, but just to slightly change the amount you consume? Are there changes that would be easy? Others that would be challenging?
If you feel like laughing, read this one about having breakfast with a Scottish woman when I could not eat dairy. She describes how dairy laden afternoon tea can be!
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