Fruit stripes

Doctors often recommend eating the rainbow, a catchall phrase for consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables. Most Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, which can be healthier alternatives for satisfying a sweet tooth.

Looking for a way to eat healthier this summer? Try swapping that ice cream cone for a nice fruit kebab.

The average adult consumes nearly 20 teaspoons of sugar — from processed foods, desserts and candy — per day, which wreaks havoc on their health.

Added sugar is a “quadruple whammy” — it’s a source of excess calories, doesn’t contribute real nutritional value (such as fiber or vitamins) to the diet, and it’s linked to dental inflammation and higher risk of diabetes and cardiac disease. Consuming sugary processed foods also displaces other, better-for-you foods from your diet.

So, no, “from a health standpoint, sugar is not the best,” said Dr. Donald Hensrud, a public health and general preventative medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic.

For years, people have taken that as a cue to swap out white sugar for honey, maple syrup and other, more natural sweeteners.

Hate to say it, but those syrups aren’t actually doing that much to help.

Honey, maple syrup, fruit juice and other high-calorie sweeteners still are high-calorie and low in nutritional benefits.

The FDA is actually moving toward classifying these “free” sugars — which are, technically, natural — in the same category as white sugar, Hensrud said.

“The effect, overall, of sugars, depends on the amount we consume, as well as what is present along with the sugars,” Hensrud said.

Don’t despair, though — there is one kind of sugar you can consume without guilt (or an ever-widening waistline).

Hensrud recommends people consume all the fresh fruit (and the sugars they contain) possible.

How? A small to medium piece of fruit, Hensrud said, is about 60 calories. Not all of that is sugar, though — fruit contains water, fiber and vital nutrients.

“There’s a perception that people should limit fruit,” Hensrud said. “But fruit is not associated with weight gain.”

Want to lower your added sugar intake? First, cut down (or out) the sugary beverages you drink. Look for other ways sugar is sneaking into your diet and eliminate some of those. Then consider adding more fresh fruit to your diet. We have some ideas in the sidebar.

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Anne writes for Rochester Magazine and the Post Bulletin, and edits 507 Magazine. She hails from Lafayette, Indiana and enjoys reading, tea-drinking, and her cat, Newt Scameownder.