The love of sweet foods is a common unhealthy eating habit. To most people sweet means delicious. As a result, they favour eating sugary sweet-tasting foods. And these foods can seriously cause harm to health.
Sweet/sweetened foods are appealing. However, their consumption must be closely monitored. Because overeating them can negatively affect health.
Sweetness improves the taste of bland foods. Therefore, it’s very easy to abuse the sweetening of food. This makes overeating sweet foods an unhealthy eating habit. But, what are ?
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What are sweet foods?
Sweet foods have the characteristic taste of sugar/honey. Some of the foods have one type of sugar, whilst others have more. The sugars present in sweet foods can either be naturally present or added. Sugars are added to many foods, however some foods are naturally sweet. Natural sweeteners like honey and molasses can also sweeten food.
Sweet foods usually carry a lot of calories. However, non-sugar sweeteners are becoming popular due to their calorie independent sweetness.
Sweet foods contribution to unhealthy eating habits
As explained earlier sweet foods are tastier and appealing. So they tend to be abused a lot. More and more people eat sweet foods everyday. Overeating sweet foods is a main unhealthy eating habit. More often the act is done unknowingly. However, even people with adequate nutrition knowledge tend to overeat sweet foods.
All over the world, sweet foods are an integral part of the diet. This is one fact that drives unhealthy eating habits.
Humanity has always had a strong desire for sweet foods. And this affects everyone, regardless of race, age, culture or gender.
Sweet tastes orient people towards energy giving foods. Which is a natural response to sustain the body. Even infants and young children base most of their food preferences on the sweet taste. If left to their own devices, young children overeat sweet foods.
Consumption of sweet foods is high because they are cheaper and readily available. This is common. A scientist in the United States once told me that healthier foods are more costly than unhealthy foods. This is common everywhere. An example is that of Zimbabwe, most people breakfast with tea and something else. The unchanging part of the breakfast meal is tea. This makes it easy to take too much sugar with time. Because very feel people can do without sweetening their tea.
Common abuses of high sugar foods
People can knowingly or unknowingly overeat sweet foods. It’s easy to develop cravings for sweet-tasting foods. Here are the most common ways which sweet foods and sugars are overeaten. It is recommended that only 10% or less of dietary energy come from high sugar foods.
Sweetening coffee and tea
Most people add more sugar than necessary to sweeten coffee or tea. Dietary sugar should only be about 50 g per day. This is more than most people take per day. Sweetening coffee or tea alone can be half of that. It’s very easy for this unhealthy eating habit to develop. This practice is one of the biggest sources of dietary sugars.
Adding sugar to avocados.
Growing up I regularly saw this practice. I am not even sure why people add sugar to an avocado. Does a fruit need sugar? That’s tainting nature in my view. Hahaha. Well, it’s still a poor dietary habit. An avocado is healthy and low in sugars. But adding sugar increases the number of calories to the meal.
Too much sugar in meal preparations.
It’s very easy to use more syrups and sugar than necessary during food preparations. This includes preparations for sugary meat marinades, confectioneries or coatings. These contribute greatly to dietary sugar intake. Syrups are rarely regarded as real sugar by most people. Therefore, it’s easy for them to reduce consumption of table sugar, whilst taking a lot of sugar in syrups.
Lack of knowledge and misinformation can lead to abuse of sweet foods.
A lot of information flows freely on the internet. People take this information and misinterpret it. One of the most misinterpreted topics is that of honey. Honey is considered healthy if eaten moderately. But honey consumption is abused a lot. A lot of people overeat honey for its benefits. They do this without knowing the dangers of overeating honey on their health. It is wrongly believed that the benefits of foods are dose-dependent. Meaning the more you eat, the higher the benefits. And this is not true in any way. As a result of this belief, they overeat honey for to get more benefits.
People also mistakenly assume that molasses have no sugar and overeat them as a sweetener. Even though molasses have a lot of potential health benefits, they still have about 46% sugar. This still makes them a sweet food. And they can seriously increase your dietary sugar intake.
It’s good to correctly interpret information to eliminate unhealthy eating habits. Especially those that involve the consumption of sweet foods.
Soft drinks are one of the most consumed sweetened food. People brag that they don’t drink beer. But they would compete with beer drinkers with soft drinks. Shockingly, people believe that drinking beer is worse than chugging a lot of soft drinks.
Soft drinks carry a lot of sugars and acids which are harmful to the body. They also have empty calories. Whilst soft drinks cannot fill the stomach, they do add to the daily calorie intake. Thus soft drinks can contribute to weight gain.
Fruit juices as sweet foods
Nowadays, fruit juices are overhyped as healthy. People mistakenly label them healthy foods because they come from healthy fruits. Whilst fruit juices come from fruits (healthy). They are not healthy.
Fruits are labelled healthy because of being whole foods. Whole fruits are eaten together with many components such as the skin, seeds and fibres. Are these present in fruit juices? No! These are removed during processing. And this makes the fruit juice a high glycemic index food! Also, commercial fruit juices have a lot of added sugars. These also provide empty calories. The empty calories contribute to weight and fat gain.
If you eat 2 whole fruits, you can feel full. But how many fruits are needed to make 3 glasses of juice? Even if it’s homemade. Juices give a false sense of security for health. This makes people consume more at the cost of their health.
Fruit shakes are good because they come directly from fruits. But they are overconsumed most of the times. It takes maybe 10 different fruits to make a litre of a shake or fruit juice. Those fruits may be enough for 3 to 4 servings. But they will be consumed in one go because people think it’s healthy. That’s overeating! These kinds of food add more sugars to the diet, even if they are natural.
Confectioneries, sweets and candy
These sweet foods are usually overeaten. Children are their main victims. They are usually used as gifts, in parties and celebrations. This makes it difficult to eliminate them from the diet. Who wants to waste a birthday cake because it’s unhealthy? It’s not about wasting, but instead of eating it all at once. How about a small portion a day?
Poor regulation of unhealthy foods advertisements
Advertisements for unhealthy foods are poorly regulated. This means that most foods are overhyped to compel customers to buy. Many customers are unaware that foods contain more sugars. This increase the number of sugars taken in sweet foods. Only consumers can protect themselves from this kind of advertising. They can do this through carefully scrutinising food labels for added sugars.
Replacing water with soft drinks
Some people prefer to quench thirst with beverages like soft drinks or fruit juices rather than water. This also increases sugar intake in the human body.
The highest sources of dietary sugars are sweetened beverages, soft drinks, fruit juices, syrups and confectioneries!
Dangers of overeating sweet foods
There are a lot of dangers associated with the consumption of sweet foods.
Most sweet or sweetened and sugary foods provide empty calories. These foods contribute to daily energy intake without removing hunger. More food will be needed to fill the stomach. This results in excess calories in the body. These excess calories cause weight and fat gain.
Excess calories hinder growth and development in children due to lack of nutrients. Sweet tasting or sugary attract children. Children will concentrate on sweet tasting foods. Of which, most sweetened foods lack other important nutrients.
Sugary foods increase risks of developing chronic diseases. They increase risks of dental caries, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and obesity. These foods also increase risks for developing metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases.
Overeating sweet or sugary foods result in excess calories in the body. Excess calories contribute to the development of obesity. Obesity is the primary risk factor for sleep-disordered breathing. Excess calories also contribute to weight and fat gain. Therefore, these foods are not good for weight weight management
Sweet/sweetened foods contribute to elevated blood sugar levels. Especially after meals. This is termed hyperglycaemia. Sweet foods have a high glycemic index. This means they increase blood sugar levels quickly when consumed. This means that they cause blood sugar and insulin spikes. Which is not good for your health.
High dietary sugar intake leads to attention loss and hyperactivity in children.
Consumption of sweet foods increases the risk of cancer development. Especially colorectal cancer. This is because these foods promote insulin-glucose dysregulation. They also promote inflammation, fat deposition and oxidative stress. All of which are linked to cancer development.
Fructose in high sugar foods
Overconsumption of high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, molasses and honey also have negative health effects. Sucrose is the sugar used to sweeten tea or coffee. These foods contain a lot of fructose. Fructose metabolism reduces insulin sensitivity. It also causes fat deposition in the liver and dyslipidemia. Loss of insulin sensitivity then leads to type 2 diabetes development. So honey is not healthy at all if overconsumed.
How to reduce the intake of sugars from sweet foods
There are several ways in which dietary sugar consumption can be reduced. This will improve general health.
- Reduce the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages
- Moderate consumption of honey
- Cutting down on syrups
- Avoid sugary meat and fish marinades
- Cut down on sweets, candy and confectioneries
- Read food labels and avoid foods with too much sugar
- Cut down on unsweetened homemade fruit juices
- Use non-sugar sweeteners. These have do not add anything to calories.
- Stay hydrated with water to avoid quenching thirst with beverages.
- Avoid sugar-filled snacks, sauces and desserts
- Cut down on fruit juices.
Sweet/sweetened foods are implicated in the development of many diseases. Consumption of sweet or high foods must be reduced for better health. People must understand that sugar is sugar whether its natural or added. Both can increase dietary sugar intake. This have negative health implications.