The human body needs sugar to survive. Your brain actually uses sugar to perform all of its operations, such as remembering, learning and contemplating, so you literally can’t even think without the sweet stuff.
The amount of sugar you take in and where it comes from can be a problem, though, and for many people, it's all about moderation. At Cambridge Court in Kearney, NE, we want to help seniors be healthy, and the caring staff are on hand to answer questions, help with diet plans and assist with anything else you need. You can also find out more about moderating sugar in your diet below.
Two main types of sugars exist: natural and processed. Natural sugar refers to any sugar that occurs naturally in food products, such as fructose in an apple or lactose in milk. Processed sugar usually comes from refining sugar cane or sugar beets. The two common processed sugars you’ll see are sucrose and high fructose corn syrup; this type of sugar is also called added sugar or refined sugar.
Natural sugars are widely considered better for you. They still should be consumed in moderation, but it’s much healthier overall to get your sugar from natural sources. The reason for this is how your body breaks down different types of sugars.
When you eat processed sugar, it hits your body all at once, which creates a burst of higher blood pressure and insulin. This burst can leave you feeling tired and fatigued, which is what creates the "sugar crash" feeling. On the other hand, when you eat natural sugars, they're usually digested at a slower pace, creating a steady stream of sugar intake. Natural sugars provide consistent energy to the body throughout the day, which can help you feel better and think more clearly.
When it comes to health risks related to sugar, the culprit is almost always added sugar.
Eating too much natural sugar can cause or worsen some health issues, but the problems are often more about the large calorie intake or imbalance in the diet than the natural sugar itself. As long as you maintain a well-rounded diet and manage calorie intake, natural sugars aren't typically a concern for many. This, of course, changes if you have medical issues such as diabetes. You should always follow dietary recommendations from your health care providers if you're managing chronic conditions.
And for everyone, too much added sugar can be a health concern. It can contribute to heart disease, inflammation, diabetes and other issues.
So, how much sugar should you consume? According to the American Heart Association, men should consume no more than nine teaspoons of added sugars in a day, and women shouldn’t have more than six.
It seems like sugar is in everything, and when you’re trying to cut back, it can feel inescapable. Here are a few tips for avoiding sugar, and if you want more ideas or help with nutrition planning, the staff at Cambridge Court is available to offer this assistance to residents.
1. Drink water. Most sweet beverages contain large amounts of added sugar. Avoid soft drinks, sports drinks and juice.
2. Stay away from processed snacks — even “healthy” snacks like granola bars. Pretty much any sweet snack you buy in the store has a lot of added sugars.
3. Flavor food with spices or extracts instead of sugar. If you’re a foodie that really enjoys food as an experience, you might be worried that less sugar means bland meals. Luckily, there are a lot of low sugar recipes that use other means of flavor.
4. Skip the sauces. Condiments like ketchup and salad dressing contain large amounts of added sugars, so cutting them out is an easy way to lower your sugar intake.
5. Don’t over do it. A sudden decrease in sugar intake can leave you with strong cravings. A lot of times, people replace sugars with starches and comfort foods. Avoid overeating other foods when you cut back on sweets.
Artificial sweeteners are probably the most controversial food topic next to pineapple on pizza. They are synthetic sugar substitutes that provide a sweet flavor without the added calories. This might sound too good to be true, which is the main cause for debate with these synthesized sweets.
Many critics claim there are copious side effects and health concerns. But are artificial sweeteners actually bad for you? Scientific consensus says no. The National Cancer Institute says there’s no solid evidence to show that artificial sweeteners cause cancer or any other serious health issues.
Artificial sweeteners can actually provide some health benefits when used correctly. They can help you cut back on calories if you’re trying to lose weight. And they can sometimes be helpful when managing diabetes, as they tend not to raise blood sugar levels. The catch is that artificial sweeteners still have an acceptable daily limit (ADI). ADI means there’s a limit to how much you can safely and healthily consume. Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners don’t provide a free pass to satisfy your sweet tooth.
You should always talk to your healthcare provider before adopting sugar substitutes or making large dietary changes.
Cambridge Court assisted living community offers nutritious, balanced meals. We want to make it as easy as possible for residents to be healthy and achieve their dietary goals, so we offer a variety of food options to meet individual needs.