Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How Sweet It Is—Or Not

The holidays are over, but wait, Valentine’s Day is just a little more than a month away. Is your sweet tooth already talking to you? It might be saying something along the lines of . . .

So, you think you want something sweet, something like chocolate or candy? Here’s what you’ll be getting. All sugars aren’t the same, but you can count on a teaspoon of sugar having 14 calories ( as does honey, molasses, powdered sugar, and other “natural” sweeteners). Picture a soft drink with about 13 teaspoons of sugar, per serving size. Then there’s the ever-present high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, derived from cornstarch and genetically modified corn. Not only is HFCS a little higher in calories than table or refined sugar, it actually increases the levels of fat in the bloodstream in the form of triglycerides. It changes the levels of the hormone leptin, which lets you know when you’re full, and at the same time, triggers high levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates eating.

And it’s not just the calories. While sucrose and fructose, found in table sugar and corn syrup, are considered, and labeled “fat free,” our bodies turn excess quantities which aren’t immediately burned, into fat, which is in turned, stored.

If you substitute artificial sweeteners—you now have Splenda, Stevia (Truvia), saccharin, aspartame and sucralose. But before you go “sweet on them,” consider that studies using animals have raised questions about these sweeteners and links to diminished fertility and cancer.

If you still have questions about just how sweet your sweet tooth might be, consider this—in 2007 Americans consumed 44 pounds of refined cane and beet sugar and 40 pounds of high fructose corn syrup—per capita!

Not to be sour on sugar, but a basket of fruit is looking better and better. Maybe this should be the year to give a gift of health. Any suggestions?

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