Read the labels: Sugars hiding in plain sight

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The number and types of sweeteners on the market is mind-boggling. Registered dietitian and personal chef Sarah Krieger says there are at least 40 different kinds. 

She says sweeteners, whether they contain calories or not, have one thing in common: They typically have no nutritional benefit. 

If you're trying to cut down on sugars, or calories, it's important to read the labels.

According to the American Heart Association, adding a limited amount of sugar to enhance the flavor of nutritious foods, like whole grain cereal, is ”better than eating nutrient-poor, highly sweetened foods.”

Soft drinks also fall into the "nutrient-poor, highly sweetened” category.  

Much attention has been placed on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as the culprit of the obesity epidemic. Although it has played a role, other sources of energy in our diets have too.

Because of all of the attention, even a muttering of the word “fructose” tends to make health-conscious consumers cringe

Instead of HFCS, you’ll now see cane sugar and other sources of sweet flavors on labels.  

This is where it helps to read the nutritional info. Cane sugar, or table sugar, contains fructose, too. It’s also found in natural products like honey and in agave nectar.  

The problem with too much fructose - whatever the source - is how it’s processed in the liver.     

Fructose is also found in fruits. However, fruits also contain fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. Some fruits even contain chemicals that help offset the insulin surge caused by fructose in your body.

Bottom line: Sugar is sugar and calories are calories. Krieger says her best advice is to slowly wean yourself from sugar.

Natural sweeteners like Stevia leaves may be a good replacement option. You can steep the leaves just like you’d steep tea and use it in your recipes. 

You can use sugars to help enhance your diet. Adding a limited amount of sugar to improve the taste of foods that provide important nutrients, such as whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk or yogurt, is better than eating nutrient-poor, highly sweetened foods.

The major sources of added sugars in American diets are regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, and milk products like ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and sweetened milk.

Sweet Potato Bread Recipe:

Sift together in medium bowl:

-2 cups whole wheat flour

-1 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

-1 teaspoon baking powder

-½ teaspoon baking soda

-¼ teaspoon salt

Blend together in a separate bowl:

-¼ cup lite cream cheese

-¼ cup butter, softened

-½ cup Splenda naturals baking blend

-2 eggs, whisked

-1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato

Fold in the sweet potato mixture into the flour and fold in ½ cup dried cranberries or raisins.

Pour into 6 greased mini loaf pans and bake for 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.