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5 Simple Ways to Cut Back on Sugar

Halloween is around the corner and not far behind it, the holidays -- all tempting our weight loss resolve with a bounty of sweet treats. Sugars lurk everywhere, from the obvious sources (candy, sodas, cakes, and cookies) to the hidden ones (ketchup).

Sugar, along with the inexpensive and widely used sweetener high-fructose corn syrup, has become a scapegoat for the obesity epidemic. Many critics note that rising obesity rates parallel the increased use of high-fructose corn syrup.

But are sweeteners really all that bad?

Why We Love Sweets

The truth is that you can have your cake and eat it, too -- as long as you do so in moderation. Of course, that sounds easy enough until you're faced with sweets calling your name!

Getting a handle on sweets cravings requires a little understanding of where sweeteners lurk, as well as the science and nature of sugars.

Studies on infants confirm that it is human nature to prefer sweets over foods like vegetables, which are more of an acquired taste.

We love sweets because they not only taste good, but make us feel good. Consuming simple carbohydrates (like sweets) boosts the brain chemical serotonin, which can help improve mood. Stress reduces serotonin levels, which may help explain why some people reach for sweets when they're feeling stressed.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

The corn syrup found on grocer's shelves is not the same as high-fructose corn syrup, used exclusively by industry to sweeten sodas, cookies, cakes, and even foods such as dinner rolls. It's made by treating cornstarch with enzymes, resulting in a syrup that is half glucose (similar to corn syrup found in the grocery store) and half fructose (table sugar).

Back in the 1970s, manufacturers realized that using a corn-based sweetener instead of table sugar would save them money. Since then, high-fructose corn syrup has become their sweetener of choice, especially in sweetened beverages.

There are some clear advantages to using high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten foods and drinks. It:

  • Easily blends into beverages.
  • Has a more concentrated sweetness than table sugar.
  • Retards freezer burn.
  • Helps baked goods turn golden brown and stay soft.

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