Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sugars: Natural vs Added

Not all sugars are created equal. During my most recent visit to SCV Today, I spoke to co-hosts, Tami and Dave about the very topic.

You see, naturally occurring sugars are those sugars that are found naturally in foods, such as in the form of fructose (found in fruit) or lactose (found in dairy products). Essentially, sugar is energy – providing fuel for our buzzing brains and active bodies. When our blood sugar drops too low, we can often experience headaches, irritability, brain fog, or grouchiness. Real food carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruit, dairy products and starchy vegetables contain the naturally occurring sugars that easily convert to glucose as our body’s preferred source of fuel.

On the flip side of naturally occurring sugars are added sugars – those that are added to food and beverage products during processing and production. And while Lisa and I are all for allowing yourself to enjoy a chocolate chip cookie, serving of ice cream, or small slice of carrot cake – all food with added sugar – from time to time, the unfortunate thing is that most of us are getting more added sugar in our diet than we bargained for. While soda, candy, and other sweet treats are the biggest contributors to added sugar in our diets, sugar can also be found in products we wouldn’t typically suspect such as bread, salad dressings, sauces and marinades, some varieties of yogurt, crackers and even nut butters. The average American is in fact consuming double the amount of added sugar recommended for us to eat each day. According to the American Heart Association, we should aim to keep our added sugar allotment to about 25g-35g per day; that translates to approximately 100 -150 calories.

The best way to recognize if foods contain added sugar? Simply look to the ingredients list. If the ingredients contain sugar, corn syrup, molasses, honey, high fructose corn syrup, or other forms listed here  – sugar has been added. And these sugars are not created equal, either! Read here to learn more or take a peek at our latest Be Well Tip featured by  Nature Box to see what sugars we prefer to use.

We recommned that you use these kinds of sweeteners to boost your intake and balance the flavors of nutrient-rich foods. Remember, that a little bit of sugar goes a long way! Try topping a grapefruit with a sprinkle of brown sugar, enjoying low-fat plain Greek yogurt with a drop of honey, or adding a teaspoon of maple syrup to your morning oatmeal.

And now for a recipe (with naturally occurring sugars).

Pomegranate, Orange, and Avocado Salsa

1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 large navel oranges
1 cup pomegranate seeds
2/3 cup raspberries, chopped
1 large avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into ½ inch pieces
2/3cup red onion
1 jalapeno chili, seeds and ribs removed, minced
½ cup chopped cilantro

In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, salt, and pepper until the salt dissolves.
Working with one orange at a time, peel that orange and cut away all the white pith. Repeat with the remaining oranges. Seperate the orange into it's segments. Cut each segment into ½ inch pieces, discard any seeds, and add to the bowl containing the lime juice.

Add the pomegranate seeds, avocado, red onion, jalapeno, raspberries, and cilantro to the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the ingredients together, being careful to not mash the avocado. 

Taste and adjust the seasoning. 
Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of our wonderful dietetic intern, Nina Gasow.

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