As I’ve said before, it is not necessarily the sugar itself (yes, white sugar is technically “natural,” albeit highly refined), but it is the quantity in which our society consumes sugar that concerns me. What have things come to if we can’t even have a cracker or a bowl of cereal or a beverage unless it has been sweetened? Come on, sugar is in almost everything these days even when you least expect it.
I get so many questions about sweeteners, especially from those wondering why we’ve chosen honey and maple syrup as our sweeteners of choice. The moral of the story is—and most experts would agree—sugar is sugar, and no matter what form of sugar you choose always consume it in moderation. Whether it is white table sugar, raw sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or maple syrup they are all—for the most part—sugars. We selected honey and maple syrup as our sweeteners of choice because they are two of the least processed “sugars” out there, and they are also difficult to find in highly processed foods. Honey and maple syrup also have slightly more nutrients than highly refined sweeteners like white table sugar, although—once again—all sweeteners are similar in the fact that overall they are high in calories and low in nutrients.
During our 100 Days of Real Food pledge, when we were restricted to honey and maple syrup as well as nothing out of a package with more than 5 ingredients, we ended up having to make all the “sweetened” foods we ate ourselves. I could not find any store-bought “sweet treats” that followed all of our rules—and trust me I looked! Since this sweetener restriction forces you to make sweetened foods from scratch you can see and control how much sweetener is being added. And chances are you will use a lot less sweetener than some factory.
So back to how Americans are consuming sugar in overwhelming amounts these days…I saw an interesting statistic highlighted on the news:
Health experts recommend we eat no more than eight teaspoons of sugar a day. But on average, Americans consume four times that much.
In case you are challenged with simple math (like me) that means we are, on average, consuming 32 teaspoons a day! Also how about this for “food for thought” from New York Times Magazine article “Is Sugar Toxic?”:
Sugar is likely the “dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.”
In closing, there are two key takeaways when it comes to sweeteners. Never choose an imitation sweetener (like splenda) over the real thing, and no matter what sweetener you choose always consume it in moderation.