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Q How much is too much sugar in my diet? For adults? For kids? Can I use honey instead of sugar? I saw a product called Swerve, a sugar replacer on TV. What is it, and can you tell me about it? Can you get it locally? DA, Greenville
A The sugar and sweetener section of the grocery keeps changing and I need help keeping up. I asked Erin Maultsby, a senior ECU dietetics student planning to graduate in December and pursue a dietetic internship, to answer your question. Here is what she wants you to know.
Did you know the average American adult consumes around 60 pounds of sugar a year? That’s equal to six, 10-pound bowling balls!
American children eat even more — about 65 pounds. Today, the leading carrier of added sugars are ... you guessed it: soft drinks.
The American Heart Association recommended that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories of added sugars per day. Women and children should eat less: no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories of added sugars. Americans eat way more, between 13 percent and 16 percent of their calorie intake when they should get no more than 10 percent from “free” or added sugars.
Adults and children who have been warned by their doctors, dietitians or dentists to reduce their sugar intake will sometimes switch to sugar alternatives such as honey or maple syrup, which they think is healthier because they are natural. But the truth is sugar is sugar any way you look at it.
Honey actually has a higher calorie content (21 calories per teaspoon) than granulated sugar (16 calories per teaspoon). Honey does have health benefits because it has some vitamins, minerals and certain antioxidants that support a healthy immune system and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Even so, if you use honey, still use it sparingly to ensure an overall healthy lifestyle.
While sitting at home watching your favorite television show, it is very possible to see at least 10 commercials about sweeteners, and it’s hard to count how many you see on social media. You saw Swerve, a sugar substitute which is low in calories and carbohydrates and non-glycemic, so it won’t raise blood sugar when consumed. It’s considered calorie free and won’t raise blood sugar because the human body cannot break down the ingredients in Swerve.
The ads brag that you can use it for baking just like sugar which is unlike other artificial sweeteners like Stevia. While you can bake with Stevia you need to bake the product at a lower temperature and for a longer time and still leave at least a quarter cup sugar in the recipe to get the product you desire.
Swerve bakes almost exactly like sugar so you don’t need to modify the recipe. The components of Swerve are erythritol (a sugar alcohol), oligosaccharides (sweet tasting carbohydrates) and natural flavors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows natural flavors taken from animal or plant sources as well as made in the lab. You can’t tell the source from the label.
Some people do experience digestive issues when they eat too much: 50 grams or about 10 teaspoons of Swerve at once. It travels rather quickly through the body and can lead to gas, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and overall abdominal pain.
Swerve is starting to appear at some of our local stores like Walmart, Target, Publix and is available on the web. It comes in a variety of forms. If you want granulated, they have it. If you want confectioners’ sugar, brown sugar or even vanilla or chocolate cake mix, they have that too.
It is also available in different quantities such as 48 ounce bags of granular or confectioners, bigger bundles such as three 12 ounce bags, two 12 ounce bags and even bundles for baker’s, which comes with granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar.
When comparing the price of Swerve with other alternatives sweeteners like Stevia and Splenda, Swerve is about the same. Sugar substitutes are all more expensive than sugar.
Using sugar substitutes seems to help some people manage their weight better. It would do most of us some good to eat less sugar and less sugar substitutes.
Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an affiliate professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at email@example.com.