MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As Valentine's Day approaches, you can bet a lot of people will be gifted some sweet treats. But are sugary snacks really the best gifts to give?
Doctors have repeatedly reported on the dangers of eating too much sugar, and how it can cause an inflammatory response in your body, which can in turn lead to chronic disease like heart disease. It also spikes and crashes your energy and can cause you to gain weight.
The good news is that there are some alternatives to sugar that you can find at the grocery store.
Registered dietitian Christina Meyers-Jax says sugar is "a great source of energy, especially for athletic performance of any kind.
"Your brain loves to use sugar. Glucose, which is the breakdown of sugar, is its primary nutrient of need. Sugar can be really important," she said. "The problem is that it is easily over-consumed and can be a source of cravings, too, so people can go crazy with that."
Meyers-Jax said that one of the best alternatives to refined sugar is agave nectar, which has a lower glycemic index and will affect your blood sugar differently.
"It is also full of moisture," she said. "It's really great for baking because it will help maintain a moist quality that you're looking for in baked goods."
Another option is maple syrup, though it's important there to read the labels and select an all-natural bottle of syrup instead of the ones made with high fructose corn syrup.
Meyers-Jax says Stevia is also a viable alternative.
"There's a lot of products that use refined Stevia. I try to get people to look at a product that has the whole stevia plant in it," she said. "This is a low calorie to no calorie alternative. So people who are looking for no calorie sweetener instead of artificial. The key word is artificial."
Meyers-Jax says the least healthy sugar to consume is the bleached out, white stuff. Instead, try to seek out real, raw cane sugar, which will be brown in color.
She also recommends when eating sugar in moderation, pairing it with protein, fiber and the right kind of fats. This helps slow down the rise in blood sugars so you have more and lasting energy, plus less of an inflammatory response in your body.
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