Less sugar, more spice healthier, still tastes nice
A: Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and can include naturally occurring sugars (as in fruits) or added sugar (table sugar, honey or other sweeteners). Complex carbohydrates refer to starches and fiber. Carbohydrates are key in a healthy diet and should make up 50 to 60 percent of total calories.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories daily from added sugar (about 6 teaspoons) for women and no more than 150 per day (about 9 teaspoons) for men. While fruits contain natural sugars, they also contain fiber and other essential nutrients. Choose whole fruits over juices, from which most fiber has been removed.
Q: Are sugar substitutes a good choice?
A: Stevia and agave are natural sweeteners in use for many years and are likely safe in moderation. They’re said to be sweeter than sugar and to have a lesser effect on blood glucose levels. Splenda, or sucralose, is an artificial sweetener derived from sugar. It is sweeter than sugar, so less can be used.
Q: How is sugar consumption linked to cancer?
A: There is a link between an increased risk of several cancers -- colorectal, breast, endometrial and pancreatic -- and high intake of simple carbohydrates. It is unclear whether this is due to direct effects, possibly by inducing higher levels of insulin and related growth factors, or a lower intake of other healthy foods. Simple carbohydrates supply empty calories because they have little nutritional value and leave less room for nutrient-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Diets high in sugar tend to be higher in calories and contribute to obesity and other chronic diseases also linked to an increased risk of cancers, such as diabetes.
Q: How can people choose healthy foods while satisfying sugar cravings?
A: Whole grains or foods that contain fiber cause a “full” sensation; simple carbohydrates leave you hungry again soon. I enjoy baking, but use whole wheat flour for all or part of the flour in recipes. Try whole wheat pastry flour, which is ground more finely, but contains comparable fiber. Spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, can lend sweetness to foods, requiring less sugar. I also recommend cultivating a taste for dark chocolate, which has significantly less sugar (and more antioxidants) than milk chocolate. Lastly, don’t forget about nature’s sweets -- fruits.
NAME: Amy Hassan, M.D., assistant professor, Department of General Oncology
PRACTICE: The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Clinical Cancer Center of the Bay Area,
18100 St. John Drive, Suite 320, Nassau Bay
EDUCATION: Bachelor's, Rice University, Houston; MD, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
EXPERIENCE: Clinical residency, internal medicine and clinical fellowship, hematology and oncology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
Mark DeHaven is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Local Advertising by PaperG