Also known as “The devil’s candy” and “the crack of sweeteners” is thick, goopy, high-fructose corn syrup hiding in a stunning variety of foods, from soft drinks and ice cream to soups and salad dressings. Until recently, scientists suspected that this popular sweetener’s unique chemistry actually fueled feeling of hunger instead of satisfying them and has been blamed for the American obesity epidemic.
Whether it is sugar, corn syrup, honey, or a fancy organic sweetener, downing too much can pack on extra pounds (especially because many sweet foods are also high in fat) and raise your blood sugar, increasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. And we’re eating more sweeteners than ever: 100 pounds per person in the United States in 2005, up from 75 pounds each in 1975. What is to blame? Super-size beverages, decadent desserts, giant candy bars, and cookies as big as salad plates.
We’re addicted to sugar. The more we eat, the more we want. Why? A big shot of refined sugar make blood sugar skyrocket, then plummet as the hormone insulin ushers the sugar into cells throughout your body. Sometimes it can fall to a lower level than before you drank that giant cola or ate those 35 jelly beans. As a result, you feel tired, hungry, and cranky – and crave more sugar. But these tips can help you break the sugar habit and get off the roller coaster for good.
Replace soft drinks with healthier sips.
One of the best things you can do is to gradually replace soda, sweetened teas, fruit drinks, and other sweetened beverages with water, unsweetened tea, club soda, or diluted fruit juices. To start, try mixing fountain drinks half and half with the diet version. Pour an ounce of grape or orange juice into seltzer water for a low-sugar spritzer. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to filtered water. Visit the herbal tea section of your grocery store and bring home new flavors to drink hot or cold. Treat yourself to one glass of real fruit juice – without added sugar or sweeteners – each day. Go beyond orange: We love concord grape, tangerine, and pomegranate. Yes, real juice has calories (between 100 to 140 per 8-ounce glass), but it counts towards your daily fruit servings, and the full-bodied flavor and natural sweetness is intensely pleasurable.
Buy 100 percent fruit juice.
Many juices at the food store are enhanced with sweeteners, to the point where there are nearly as many grams of sugar per serving as in a cola. So don’t assume the juice you buy is all juice. Read the label: if it contains corn syrup or other sweeteners, put it back and find a brand that is all juice.
Look at other labels as well.
It’s worth checking almost every packaged food you buy, be it cookies, kielbasa, or spaghetti sauce. If a sweetener is among the first five ingredients, it’s probably sweeter than you want for your health.
Have fruit for dessert six days a week, then indulge on the seventh.
Sometimes the best way to give something up is to have a little once in a while. You won’t fall off the wagon when you pass the bakery stand at the mall on Wednesday if you know you can have two homemade chocolate chip cookies on Saturday night.
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