A favorite gift for Valentine’s Day is candy. A heart shaped box full of chocolates is another way to express affection. Tiny hearts with sayings on them are 100 percent pure sugar. Traditionally, it’s all about sweets for the sweet!
Personally, I prefer a dinner and movie for Valentine’s Day. A touching card with thoughtful, loving words means the world to me. But I won’t turn a few chocolates down.
Since the 1980s, the American sugar intake has been steadily rising. It has become a major source of calories in the United States. We are eating more than we should for good health.
New alarming research reveals that in the past 30 years, we have been consuming more than 10 percent of our calories from added sugar. And about a tenth of the population has been ingesting up to 25 percent of their calories from sugar.
Unfortunately, those who consume this much added sugar increase their risk of a death related to heart disease by almost 40 to 50 percent. So that big fancy heart of chocolates promising love and happiness could be actually hastening death. That sounds convoluted to me.
The results of studies like this aren’t really that surprising. For years, nutritionists, doctors, and dentists have been warning people about the dangers of excess sugar.
Consistently consuming foods containing high cholesterol gets all of the attention, but sugar plays a key role in heart disease. Sucrose and its many unpronounceable forms damages blood vessels and contributes to plaque build-up in and around the blood stream and heart.
So, if you really want to express your love with a desire to prolong life with a healthy heart, cut back on the sugar and find another way to say, I love you.” There is a big difference between two or three pieces of chocolate and a 2-pound heart shaped box or bag.
Sugar and its sweet siblings creep up in the most unlikely of foods. It can really add up.
The natural sugars found in whole fruits are not part of the problem. It is the processed foods and sweet treats that are notorious for containing added sugar. Let me repeat this fact: Fruit sugars are not harmful to heart health.
Always check food labels. Many low fat food items reduce the fat content but add additional sugar to make the product appealing to the taste buds. This includes yogurt, health bars, salad dressings, condiments, and even organic cereals.
For optimal health, it’s best to avoid all added sugars, except perhaps on a rare occasion like your birthday.
Check your fasting blood sugar level. Many people think that they don’t have to worry about it unless they deal with diabetes. Nothing could be further from the truth. A morning blood sugar level before eating breakfast that is higher than 85 mg/dL increases the risk of heart disease.
Say “I love you” without threatening good health. Limit the cakes, cookies, pie and candy, and treat your Valentine with a happy heart.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator, registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a Diabetes Self-Management Training Program at Dunlap Community Hospital, Orrville, Ohio. Contact her at [email protected]