Despite the American Heart Association (AHA) advising that consumers limit their daily sugar intake to six teaspoons of sugar for women, and nine teaspoons for men, American adults and teenagers are consuming too much added sugar (meaning the refined sugars and corn syrups added to foods such as baked goods and sugary sodas, and unexpected foods like soups and crackers). According to the AHA, the average American adult eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day, and teenagers eat 34 teaspoons ﹘ that’s the equivalent of drinking almost four 12-ounce sodas.
Why reduce sugar intake?
There are many health benefits when sugar is kept to a minimum, including healthy teeth and a healthy body weight. Too much sugar is taxing on your heart. The reason? Sugar increases triglycerides and blood lipids, and lowers levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol that carries extra cholesterol in the blood to the liver for removal. With less HDL in your blood, plaque can build up in the arteries, causing heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks, according to the American Nutrition Association (ANA).
Added bonus: acne-free skin.
Reducing sugar in your diet can also lower the occurrence of acne. An Australian study tested to see how the glycemic level in the diet might affect the skin’s condition in teenage boys. High (consisting of food like refined carbohydrates and sugars, which make blood sugars spike) and low (consisting of foods like cherries, oats, and pears that are broken down slowly and cause a gradual increase in blood sugar) glycemic diets were tested and the study showed that teenage boys who consumed the low-glycemic diet had 50% less acne. The teenage boys who consumed the high-glycemic diet had 14% more acne.
Are there ways to eat less sugar?
Change your caffeine-fix sweetener: Stevia, a plant-based sweetener, tastes sweeter than sugar, so you can use less of it in your cup of Joe or spot of tea. In addition, many sports drinks, soda, and other items with stevia are available at the grocery store.
Satisfy cravings with protein rather than sweets: A dollop of nut butter, or some sunflower seeds can help manage surprise sugar cravings. To be prepared when you’re out and about, keep protein-rich snacks like beef jerky, nuts, or Amaranth Hemp Protein Poppers (recipe below) in your car, bag, or purse.
I spy sugar: Ingredients on the nutrition label won’t always be transparent and listed simply as ‘sugar.’ It is often disguised under many pseudonyms ﹘ learn their names so you can easily recognize them on the label, and then choose brands of your favorite items that don’t have added sugar or have only a few grams per serving.
Out of sight, out of mind: You don’t have to cut sweets out of your life cold turkey, but to avoid temptation, store them out of sight (in the back of a cupboard or on a high shelf). Research shows that you are more likely to indulge if they are stored out in the open.
Cut back slowly: Depriving your body of sugar, when it has been conditioned to expect it can be challenging. If you can skip a piece of your co-worker’s birthday cake, or a drive-thru milkshake, celebrate your accomplishment! If not, don’t beat yourself up; you can still make small modifications during the rest of your day to cut back, start with a clean slate the next day, or start with a smaller goal, like cutting back by two teaspoons a day.
Amaranth Hemp Protein Poppers
Prep time: 30 minutes
Dehydration time: 6-8 hours (optional)
Yield: 28-30 poppers
- 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup raw pecans
- 1/4 cup raw almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup organic hemp seeds
- 1/2 cup amaranth
- 1/2 organic banana
- 2 tablespoons raw agave nectar, maple syrup, yacon syrup or honey
- 2 Medjool dates, pitted and rehydrated in hot water
1. Place sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds and salt in the food processor and pulse until chopped. Don’t over process, you want to maintain chunks of nuts. Place nut mix in a large bowl, add hemp seeds, and set aside.
2. Place a skillet on high heat and when a drop of water disappears immediately when dropped in, your skillet is ready. Pop amaranth by placing 1 tablespoon of grain in at a time, stirring constantly for about 15 seconds until seeds pop. After they pop, transfer to a shallow bowl and add the next tablespoon of amaranth to the skillet until you get 1 cup of popped amaranth. Don’t be discouraged if the grains don’t pop right away, just adjust the temperature until you find the combination that works in your kitchen. Once all your amaranth is popped, set aside in shallow bowl.
3. To ensure the poppers hold their shape, in a blender, add banana, dates (squeeze to remove excess liquid), and agave nectar and blend until a smooth paste forms. Add paste to hemp-nut mixture, and stir to combine.
4. Using a small spoon, scoop your banana-nut-hemp mixture into a ball, and then roll in popped amaranth. Roll with your hand until you have a fully coated ball. Continue until you have portioned out all poppers and rolled them in amaranth.
5. Store poppers in an airtight glass container in your refrigerator or freezer. You can also dehydrate them for 6-8 hrs to extend their shelf life if you’d like to store them in your pantry.
Aubrey, Allison. “Sweet Tooth Gone Bad: Why 22 Teaspoons Of Sugar Per Day Is Risky.” All Things Considered. National Public Radio, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 Oct 2016.
Jaslow, Ryan. “World Health Organization Lowers Sugar Intake Recommendations.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 5 Mar. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.
Praderio, Caroline. “6 Ways To Cut Down On Sugar Without Losing Your Mind.” Prevention. N.p., 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.
“Sweetest Day | American Nutrition Association.” Nutrition Digest 37.3 (n.d.): n. pag. American Nutrition Association. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.