Sugar is everywhere. It’s in our cereal, milk, crackers, jelly, even our kids’ vitamins! You’ll even find sugar under different names such as maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, coconut sugar, corn syrup, and many more. Sugar serves many purposes; in food, it’s used to give color, texture and flavor to baked goods. In our bodies, sugars fuel red blood cells and the brain.
However, there’s a downside to sugar. It’s not bad per se, but most of us consume too much of it. According to survey data, the average person in America gets up to 20 teaspoons of the sugar every single day. The medical community is up in the arms about this because the daily recommended amount if 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women.
No one is telling you to cut your sugar intake completely, but there’s no harm in cutting back especially if you are having more than the recommended amount. Don’t fret; there are ways to sweeten your meals without adding sugar. For instance, unsweetened cocoa powder is a great addition to coffee and it provides a boost of antioxidants at the same time. Sweet vegetables and fruits like melons, peaches, sweet corn and sweet peas are great for sweet salad dressings or as a quick snack. Add a few dried figs or dates to smoothies for added nutrition, fiber and sweetness. Cinnamon is also a great way to add calcium, fiber and sweetness to things like baked goods, oatmeal and even coffee. It also has the added health benefit of slowing down the rate of digestion, which prevents blood sugar spikes.
Pink grapefruit or ripe tomatoes are great salad toppers, but they could also be blended down into a sour-sweet salad dressing. For more sweetness, ripe bananas are a baking favorite because they also add moisture to baked goods. Simply wait until the peels are showing black spots and they are good to go.
Dried fruit with no sugar added is another great snack option and sweetener for foods like granola, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Simply soak some raisins or dates in water and puree before adding to a smoothie, or munch on them as is. Presto—you have vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients in one.