Not So Sweet Sugar

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Everyone has their sweet kryptonite whether it be soft drinks, cake, milkshakes, that cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, or the latest sugary snack or candy on the shelves. While it may be true that these foods and beverages are delicious in their own right, these same vittles are loaded with sugar that can negatively impact your health. The reason we crave these sweets is that sugar releases dopamine in our brains, which causes us to crave foods and beverages that are loaded with sugar. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentions, “Americans are eating and drinking too much-added sugars which can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.”

The CDC further states, “Americans should keep their intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories as part of a healthy diet. For instance, if your caloric intake is 2000 calories,  no more than 200 of those calories should come from sugar.”  As part of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) adult curriculum, one of the many topics covered and discussed in great detail is the lesson “Making Smart Drink Choices”. In this lesson, adult participants learn the importance of swapping their sugars and gain greater insight on how much sugar they consume throughout the day. To illustrate how sugar affects weight, as noted by EFNEP, if you consume two cans of regular soda every day for one year, that could equate to a weight gain of more than 30 pounds. To reduce your sugar intake, try some of the following suggestions:

  • Choose water over soft drinks. Soft drinks are defined as any beverage that contains added sugars. The CDC suggests taking closer inventory of the nutrition labels to identify any forms of sugars, particularly brown sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.
  • Instead of drinking fruit juice, consider going for fresh whole fruit, which contains natural sugars. In an article posted by Medical News Today, writers mentioned that other forms of sugar differ from fruit sugar because “they undergo processing and manufacturers tend to overuse them as additives in food and other products”. If fresh fruits are not accessible, you can also try frozen or canned fruits packed in water.
  • Curb your sugar cravings with a variety of vegetables. A research study found that the consumption of green, leafy vegetables was associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes. This is equally important when choosing snack options for children. Vegetables typically contain less sugar content than processed foods. Increasing vegetable consumption not only supports decreasing sugar absorption, but also creates a sense of fullness.

For more information, contact Ashley McRae, Extension Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant, at 910-671-3276, by email at, or visit our website.

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Written By

Ashley McRae, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionAshley McRaeProgram Assistant, EFNEP - Adult Call Ashley Email Ashley N.C. Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center
Posted on Aug 20, 2019
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