This Valentine’s Day, make sure to show yourself and others some love with ways that’ll keep your heart (and theirs) healthy and ticking for many more holidays to come! One way to keep your heart in check is by reducing added sugar in your diet.
Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are put into foods or beverages when they’re processed or prepared. The American Heart Association (AHA) strongly recommends limiting added sugars, and states that consuming more than their daily recommendation (no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar for most women, and no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for most men) can increase your risk of heart disease.
Further, too much sugar can lead to weight gain, and those extra pounds can increase your risk for heart disease. Research shows that excess sugar consumption has also been linked to high blood pressure, inflammation, and elevated triglyceride levels.
One way to reduce your intake of added sugar is with sugar substitutes, like low calorie sweeteners also called 'non-nutritive sweeteners' (NNS). Replacing sugary foods and drinks with sugar-free options with NNS is one way to limit calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Also, when used to replace food and drinks with added sugars, low calorie sweeteners can help people with diabetes, another condition that can lead to heart disease.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed and given a green light of safety to five sweeteners including aspartame (in brand names NutraSweet® and Equal). Here’s a link with types of foods that may contain aspartame: http://www.aspartame.org/about/consumer-products/. And you can always check the food label both for total calories and whether non-nutritive sweeteners are used to provide sweetness without the calories.
As you make heart healthy choices on Valentine’s Day – and every day - select foods and beverages that are high in nutrients, low in fat and calories, and low in added sugars. Foods and beverages that contain aspartame and other sugar substitutes can be a really sweet part of your heart healthy diet.
Althea Zanecosky, MS, RD, LDN, is a nutrition communications consultant in Philadelphia, PA. She regularly provides expert counsel to the Aspartame Resource Center.