The Increasing Need for Natural, Sugar-Free Sweeteners
The average American consumes 17 teaspoons1 of added sugar a day. That’s much higher than the American Heart Association’s daily recommended limit of six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men. This excessive sugar consumption aligns with the booming convenience foods market. Convenience foods often contain added sugars that may have adverse health effects over time. As awareness of these effects increases, so does the demand for natural, sugar-free sweeteners.
Convenience Foods and Added Sugars
The term “convenience foods” refers to food items prepared and packaged before the consumer purchases them, designed to reduce cooking time. These foods typically contain added sugars and high fructose corn syrup to improve their taste and texture or prolong their shelf life. A recent study2 found that convenience foods contribute nearly 90% of all added sugars to the average American’s diet.
Examples of convenience foods that contain high levels of added sugar:
- Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks
- Cereal and cereal bars
- BBQ sauce, ketchup, and spaghetti sauce
- Flavored coffees and smoothies
- Protein bars
- Low-fat yogurt
- Fruit juice
The Effects of Sugar on the Body
Sugar is a carbohydrate, and one teaspoon contains about 16 calories of energy. Consuming foods high in added sugars means adding more calories to your diet without the beneficial nutrients that many natural sources of sugar, such as fruits and vegetables, typically offer. Increased caloric intake can lead to weight gain and obesity over time, which may increase your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Consuming too much sugar also raises your blood glucose levels, which prompts the pancreas to produce more insulin. People who consume more than the daily recommended amount of sugar regularly may eventually develop insulin resistance, which causes type 2 Diabetes.
The Effects of Sugar on the Brain
High blood glucose levels can cause inflammation in the brain, which may result in impaired cognitive function and memory. Sugar also affects your mood – some studies found that it can compromise the brain’s emotional processing centers and may increase the risk of developing anxiety. Moreover, sugar activates the brain’s reward response, flooding your body with dopamine that causes you to crave more sugary foods and drive further overeating. This reward response may eventually become a sugar addiction with accompanying withdrawal symptoms.
Sugar Alternatives Explained
The demand for healthier sweeteners and sugar substitutes has increased as more people learn about the adverse health effects sugar may have on the body and brain.
There are many sweet substances that exist in nature, such as honey, molasses, monk fruit, and maple syrup, which manufacturers can use to sweeten processed foods naturally. While many people turn to these natural sweeteners to replace sugar, the body metabolizes them in the same way as sugar, raising your blood glucose levels and adding calories to your diet.
Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucrose, are synthetic sugar substitutes that contain no calories. While the FDA generally recognizes these sweeteners as safe, many prefer natural options. Some naturally occurring sweeteners that don’t raise blood sugar levels or contribute significantly to your daily caloric intake include stevia, erythritol, and xylitol.
Sugar is prevalent in modern American diets and is an essential component of many popular processed and convenience foods, such as sauces, dressings, yogurts, cereals, and flavored drinks. Consuming sugar in excess may have adverse mental and physical effects, causing inflammation and other health issues. Convenience food producers should limit the added sugars in their products and substitute them for natural sweeteners, such as stevia, to appeal to health-conscious shoppers. Advanced Biotech is a leading supplier of sugar-free flavorings and aromatics for the food and beverage industry. Please contact us for more information.