Sugar Fix: Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Sweets Desire
By Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Got a sweet tooth? Blame it on Mother Nature.
Babies are born with a preference for sweet tastes, most likely a survival impulse passed down through the ages. Breast milk, rich in fat and other nutrients necessary for fueling an infant's rapid growth, is mildly sweet. (So is infant formula.) This desire doesn't end in early childhood, however. Most people continue to love sugary fare, reinforcing their inborn craving.
Beyond enticing newborns to eat, sugar provides calories. Whether the sugar is from an apple or a candy bar, the body quickly converts it to glucose, a simple sugar found in the blood that helps energize your cells.
So why all the scorn for sugar? It could be the company it keeps. Most sweetened fare --- cookies, cakes, and candy --- is also high in fat and packed with calories that contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Even fat-free sugar-filled foods, such as jelly beans, provide little more than calories. Foods rich in natural sugars --- including fruit and certain vegetables such as peas and corn --- are better for you because they supply nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber while satisfying your sweet tooth.
How much sugar is OK to eat? The World Health Organization suggests that healthy people limit added sugar intake to 10% of total daily calories. On a 2,000-calorie diet, that translates into a maximum 50 grams of added sugar a day (12 ounces of regular soda supplies 35 grams; one teaspoon of table sugar contains 4).
Your sugar allowance includes the added sweeteners in processed foods that don't seem sweet, including bread and cereal. Knowing your sugar allotment helps with label reading. You'll find that the sugar content (most often added sugar) of processed foods is listed under "carbohydrate" in the food label's Nutrition Facts panel.
Once you cut back on the sweet stuff, you may be able to get by with even less. Try these strategies for giving sugar the slip:
As those of you who consider dessert a primary food group know all too well, balancing healthy foods with a desire for sweets is challenging. The following recipes offer nutritious ways to get your sugar fix.
No-Cook Nut Butter Crunchies
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