If you are eating an American diet you might not realize how much sugar sneaks its way in. The American Heart Association reports that the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day and American teens consume 34 teaspoons. These sugars are most often added in when foods are processed and sometimes in unsuspected items like soups and crackers.
Why cut back on sugar?
Many of us know that keeping sugar in check can help you to keep healthy teeth and maintain a healthy weight. But did you know that too much sugar is hard on your heart as well? It’s true. A high sugar diet can lead to heart disease, stroke and heart attack according to the American Nutrition Association (AHA). This is because excess sugar increases triglyceride and bad cholesterol levels and lowers levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol that transports extra cholesterol in the blood for removal. Both of these factors make a person more likely to have plaque buildup in their arteries. Cutting back on sugar may also help clear up your skin. A study in Australia was conducted to see if a high and low glycemic diet would affect the skin condition of teenage boys. A high-glycemic diet consists of food high in refined carbohydrates like breads, pastas, fries, pastries and sugar which cause blood sugar levels to quickly rise. A low glycemic diet consists of foods that are broken down more slowly and cause a smaller increase in blood sugar such as cherries, oats, and pears. The findings were that the boys who ate the low glycemic diet had a 50% decrease in acne and those on the high-glycemic diet had a 14% increase in acne.
How much sugar is enough?
In our opinion, any added sugar is too much. In the last year, the World Health Organization lowered the maximum daily allowance of sugar to 6 teaspoons per day for an adult with normal weight and BMI. The American Heart Association made a similar recommendation for people to keep their hearts healthy. This represents an added 100 kcal per day as well. We still feel this is a lot of sugar and can have negative consequences for health.
What are some simple ways to reduce my sugar intake?
Sweeten up your morning coffee or tea with stevia
Stevia is a plant based sweetener. It is sweeter than sugar so you do not need as much. Although we don’t recommend you perpetuate you desire for sweets, in a pinch you can also find sports drinks, sodas, and other items made with stevia at the grocery store.
Reach for protein instead of sweets
We know that a spoonful of nut butter or some sunflower seeds can help manage sugar cravings. We recommend packing protein-rich snacks like beef jerky or nuts in your car or pursing to snack on when you are out and about. Try out the recipe for Amaranth Hemp Protein Poppers below!
Be a sugar detective
Learn the names for sugar and read labels when you shop. Choose brands of your favorite items that do not have added sugar or have a few grams. To learn more about the many names for sugar click on the link here.
Store your sweets tactfully
Avoid buying sweets in bulk for the home. Instead, have them only on special occasions when out so that you don’t have any in a moment of weakness.
Aim to gradually reduce intake
It can be a challenge to not succumb to sugar cravings, so if you are able to bypass the birthday cake or drive-thru milkshake, celebrate your small successes. If you don’t, know go easy on yourself and know you can always make small adjustments in the rest of your day to cut back or try again tomorrow. It might be helpful to set a small goal, such as cutting back by not having any after 4pm, then the next week, cut it out after 12pm, etc.
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
• 1/2 organic banana
• 2 tablespoons raw agave nectar, maple syrup, yacon syrup or honey to taste
• 2 soaked Medjool Dates, pitted
• 1/4 cup organic hemp seeds
• 1/2 cup Amaranth
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 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 constantlyfor about 15 seconds until seeds pop. After they pop, transfer to a 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, place in a shallow bowl and set aside.
3. Now let’s create a sweet banana date paste to bind our poppers. In the blender, place banana, dates and agave and mix until smooth. Pour paste into the large bowl with the nuts and mix well. Fold in your hemp seeds.
4. Using a small spoon, scoop your banana nut and hemp mixture into your popped amaranth. Roll in your hand until you have a fully coated ball. Continue until you have used all of your mixture and popped amaranth.
5. Store poppers in an airtight glass container in your refrigerator, freezer or you can dehydrate them and keep them in your pantry. If you would like to extend the shelf life of this snack, then dehydrate your poppers for about 6-8 hrs.
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.
Jaslow, Ryan. “World Health Organization Lowers Sugar Intake Recommendations.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 5 Mar. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.