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Science blog calls sugar 'worst thing you can eat,' but you can avoid it

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The PLOG ONE blog doesn't mince words in its headline calling sugar the "worst thing you can eat," and backs up its claims with links to supporting research.

With attention getting headlines calling sugar "enemy number one in the western diet" and comparing it to tobacco, the media has begun picking up on the message of a recent gathering of leading medical and nutrition experts called Action on Sugar.

While sugar trade groups in the U.S. and U.K. maintain that sugar has its place in a healthy diet, experts disagree, saying that humans have no need for sugar and that simply reducing added sugar and corn syrup to processed foods by 20 to 30 percent could put a huge dent in the obesity problem over the next three to five years.

The idea is not new - a 10-year-old study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked the sweetener high fructose corn syrup with increased obesity rates. Nonetheless, the ingredients remains a mainstay of many items in the average person's kitchen, including many brands of bread and ketchup.

Here are some ways to decrease your family's consumption of sugar and equivalent sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup.

Experiment with recipes to cut down on fat and sugar. While some people demonize calorie-free sweeteners like Splenda almost to the same degree as others decry sugar, for many, it's the lesser of two evils and keeps them from overdoing sugar. Splenda granular works well in many recipes. For example, you can make tapioca pudding using skim milk and Splenda for a sugar free and low carb sweet indulgence that's still tasty.

Give up the soda habit. If you don't object to artificial sweeteners, try diet soda. Some are actually quite good, and there are enough choices that you should be able to find one that you like. You could also switch to iced tea with a calorie free sweetener, or make your own lemonade with some lemon juice and a packet of calorie-free sweetener.

Avoid using sweet treats as rewards for children. This is easier said than done, but it's worth trying to cut back on candy and cookies as prizes or goodie bag contents. A generation ago, kids had cake and ice cream at a birthday party. Now, they have cake and ice cream, plus take home a bag containing candy and trinkets.

Know the enemy. Sugar and related sweeteners lurk in nearly every food product you can imagine. Those who strive to avoid gluten may notice that many gluten-free goods are loaded with sugar or corn syrup. Products made to advertise a lower fat content often add more sugar or high fructose corn syrup to make up for the loss of taste and texture from fat.

Go cold turkey. Folks who've successfully followed an eating plan that eschews sugar and most carbs, such as the Dukan Diet, can attest to the claim that if you stop eating sugar and high-carb foods for two or three weeks, you really don't feel a need for them anymore. You may notice that the more sweets you eat, the more you want. It works the other way as well - if you don't eat sweets, you don't really want them.

In an Action on Sugar release, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, Canada Yoni Freedhoff says, “Not only has added sugar found its way into virtually everything we eat, but worse still, the use of sugar as a means to pacify, entertain and reward children has become normalized to the point that questioning our current sugary status quo often inspires anger and outrage."

Even the Cookie Monster realized years ago that "cookies are a sometime treat." If he can give up the habit, we call can.

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