There is a reason why we should all avoid sugary foods.

About a decade ago, we thought about carbohydrates as simple (sugars) and complex (starches) and health professionals we advising to consume complex carbohydrates instead of simple ones to prevent obesity and diabetes.

But this is just a tip of the iceberg.

Today we know that some complex carbohydrates are not so healthy because they can spike our blood glucose just as much as simple sugars. And why should we care? Because research have shown that if we constantly have our blood sugar “spiking” as we ingest foods with a high carbohydrate or sugar content, we are in much higher risk for developing diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Also, sugar is considered a “pro-inflammatory” food, which can aggravate inflammatory-related conditions such as autoimmune diseases (lupus, IBS, etc). So scientists came up with the glycemic index, which is a system that ranks foods on a scale from 1 to 100 based on their effect on blood-sugar levels. There is a more accurate system called the Glycemic load, which considers the serving size of the food and how it affects our blood sugar.

The bad news is that added sugar is in almost all industrialized foods. To put that in perspective, a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar, which is already more than the recommended amount per day!

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are: Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) and Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).

And although fructose (the sugar found in fruits, or in some instances other plant derivatives such as corn AKA High fructose corn syrup HFCS) does not raise blood glucose, too much fructose – especially from HFCS – is absorbed by the liver, imposing a great burden on this important organ. Any fructose-containing sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave nectar) should be consumed in moderation.

So what can we do?

The most important step is to limit added sugars by not consuming packaged, industrialized or fast foods. If you already do that, lookout for “healthy” foods with lots of sugar added such as protein or raw bars, granola, gluten-free baked goods, flavored yogurts and juices. Even the foods we may label as healthy might have a lot of sugar added.

What about sweet fruits and vegetables such as mangoes and carrots and beets? They are perfectly fine, because REAL foods (that come in their natural state) work in a perfect synergy where all of its components (fibers, vitamins, etc) will deliver benefits to our bodies. There is NO bad fruit or vegetable when it’s ingested in its natural form (not juiced). I am in favor or juicing and blending, but those methods break the fiber down or take them out completely (which will speed the digestion of the sugars), so it is better to choose green leafy vegetables and low-sugar fruits such as berries to limit the total fructose to less than 20g.

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