Sugar in Food: Sweeteners in the Changing American Diet

On a diet report card, Americans would score a D+ in sugar. We’re coming down from a sugar high of 89 pounds per person in 1999. That mirrors the drop in sugary soft drinks over the last decade or so. Still, 78 pounds of mostly sugar and high-fructose corn syrup is too much. A big chunk of our added sugar comes from sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, which are linked to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Who needs ’em?

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16 Replies to “Sugar in Food: Sweeteners in the Changing American Diet”

  1. I’m lucky, I’ve never had a “sweet” tooth. Other than ice cream, I don’t particularly like sweets.
    But High Fructose Corn Syrup is everywhere. The label is so important.

  2. What is the best/safest alternative sweetener out on the market?? I still like to put some sugar into my coffee and afternoon tea!

  3. I’m doing my best to cut down on sugar. I don’t add extra sugar to food, but I do a lot of baking. I recently started growing a “stevia” plant. How can I use it in baking to reduce the reduce sugar?

  4. I am a “chocoholic”,and it is quite a struggle for me to stay away from sweets!It helps to really study the label,and when I see all the fats and sugars in a small chocolate bar,that is usually enough to help me make a better decision re: my eating habits!

  5. I have found that it is very difficult to find processed foods that don ‘t have high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. That gives all the more reason to cut down or drop processed foods in the diet.

  6. Sugar is sugar. Maple syrup, molasses, honey, agave, brown sugar — they all act on the endocrine system and the brain in the same way.

    The best sweetener is stevia, a natural product from the sunflower family. You can also use spices as substitutes. Adding cinnamon to your coffee grounds before brewing leaves a sweeter taste in the mouth.

    As much as possible, however, I tell my readers and patients to wean themselves from the need to sweeten everything and to buy foods that place sugar fifth or more on the ingredients label. This means buying unflavored yogurt and oats but the pay-off is that by adding extracts or fruit, we will actually taste the food we’re eating.

  7. Being a diabetic I have always been told that agave has a much slower breakdown in the bloodstream. I was told that sugar, maple syrup and molasses, honey etc. goes into the bloodstream immediately. However, agave takes hours and is slowly released into the bloodstream. Is this true?

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: Xylitol is safe with this caveat. Too much xylitol (about 30–40 grams or 7–10 teaspoons, although sensitivities vary) could produce a laxative effect and/or gastrointestinal distress.

      Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which occurs naturally in birch and some other plants, is about as sweet as table sugar and has about three quarters of the calories.

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