Guest Author: Brittany Cines
If you are anything like me, you crave sweets often. Whether it’s a need for a small pick-me-up in the middle of a long day, or a little dessert to finish off a meal, I am always looking for healthy ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. But can sweets really be healthy, and what is so bad about refined sugars anyways?
Before we can begin to answer this question, we must understand how different types of carbohydrates work in our bodies, and what makes refined sugars different from natural sugars. In general, carbohydrates are essential for providing us with the energy we need to maintain our busy lifestyles. All carbohydrates are converted into glucose in our bodies, which can be used right away as energy, or stored for later as fat. However, this process can be a little different depending on which type of carbohydrate we choose to consume. Simple carbohydrates are easily broken down into quick energy, while complex carbohydrates take more time to break down, providing us with long-term energy. Specifically, simple carbohydrates come from sugars, which can be found naturally in foods, or as an added ingredient. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are found in foods with starches and fiber.
Refined sugars are a type of simple carbohydrate in which sugar is added during a refining process. Unlike natural sugars, refined sugars provide us with very little nutritional value. Refined sugars do not contain vitamins, minerals, or fiber, like in natural and complex carbohydrates. We all know that a calorie is a calorie, no matter the source. However, refined sugars are said to have “empty calories,” lacking the essential nutrients we need to keep our bodies healthy.
I try to avoid store-bought sweets that tend to have a lot of refined sugars, such as cakes, candies, syrups, and soda. By paying attention to the nutrition labels at the grocery store, I find it very easy to limit refined sugars in my diet. Instead of buying the sugary foods that I love, I prepare yummy versions of my favorite foods at home, substituting refined sugars for products with natural sugars. In general, about 40% to 60% of our total calories per day should come from carbohydrates, in order to maintain optimal health, and replacing refined sugars with natural and complex carbohydrates can be much more beneficial to our bodies.
Quick Snack Ideas
Check the label on all of these to make sure that no refined sugar has been added.
- Dried fruit
- Raw nuts
- Rice cakes with a nut spread
- Carrots with hummus
- Natural applesauce
My passion for cooking really began when my mom signed me up for my first cooking classes at the age of 8. My love for food and cooking continued to grow stronger as I took every child, teen and adult class that was offered at my cooking school. Towards the end of high school, I expanded my love for cooking as I started to develop an interest in healthy eating. I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Dietetics. Throughout college, I held a job as a Student Nutritionist for the University of Maryland Dining Services, and I interned at The National Institutes of Health, the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, as well as at Suburban Hospital. In the fall I will begin my Dietetic Internship at the National Institutes of Health. Following the completion of this yearlong internship I plan to sit for my certification examination, in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD). I am so excited to be involved with this blog, because it fits in perfectly with my passion, and it allows me to share some of the topics I have learned about in my nutrition courses and throughout work experiences.
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