Sugar is added to almost all processed foods nowadays. This includes breakfast cereals, cookies, and even ketchup. I know what you’re thinking: a little sugar can’t hurt. Natural sugar in moderate amounts is fine, but eating too much processed or refined sugar can cause serious health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
Obesity and diabetes are two of the most common health problems caused by modern lifestyles, affecting people of all ages. Blood sugar and blood pressure levels can both rise due to eating a diet high in processed foods and added sugar. Inflammation and increased triglyceride levels are additional side effects of a sugar-rich diet.
The American Heart Association advises that most adults consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, which is equivalent to around six teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar for women and about 150 calories per day, or about nine teaspoons or 36 grams for men.
According to the World Health Organization, a person’s health can benefit by cutting their sugar intake to less than 5%. In addition, as we become older, our digestive systems decline, and we become less efficient at metabolizing sugar.
As a result, limiting sugar intake is crucial for elderly citizens who want to live longer, healthier lives. Also, checking your blood sugar is more crucial than ever if you’re a senior with diabetes.
Reducing or eliminating sugar from an elderly loved one’s diet will be more challenging if they have been regular consumers of sugar throughout their lives. Contrarily, research Research suggests that sugar contributes to various chronic illnesses affecting the elderly. For this reason, it is important for the elderly to understand sugar withdrawal techniques.
This article discusses various alternatives to sugar you can try for your senior loved ones.
Sugar Alternatives to Try For Seniors
One strategy to manage your blood sugar is to eat healthy food. You can do this by limiting consumption of sweets or swapping them out for healthier options. You should exercise caution while shopping for what may look like the healthier option because some foods are falsely promoted as such.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just cut back on sugar due to its health risks, gradually weaning off sugar and switching to healthier options is something to consider. For example, some people use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin to reduce sugar consumption.
Despite their rising popularity, studies have raised concerns about the potential health risks of using artificial sweeteners, particularly among the elderly. Thankfully, there are options that don’t include a guilt trip or empty calories that you may enjoy as a senior.
Stevia is the first on the list. Pure stevia extract comes from the leaves of the South American plant Stevia rebaudiana and is used as a sugar substitute. Those who have a sweet appetite and enjoy sweets will appreciate that it is even sweeter than sugar.
In addition to being a tasty sweetener option, it has been demonstrated to reduce blood pressure.
Stevia extract is a good sugar substitute for those with diabetes or who are trying to watch their calorie intake.
Although it contains no chemicals, some individuals find that even purified stevia extract has an unpleasant aftertaste when used to sweeten beverages like coffee or tea. A wide variety of powdered and liquid forms are available, so you may have to play around to discover the one that best suits your needs.
Additionally, stevia extract holds up well to baking temperatures, allowing it to be utilized in baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pastries. To get the best flavor, stevia should be combined with other sweeteners.
Xylitol is a promising candidate for a sugar substitute with fewer health risks. Sugar alcohol xylitol can be derived from either birch wood or maize. Being fructose-free, it’s a superior replacement for sugar. There may even be health benefits, as some research suggests it may be good for your teeth and bones.
There are 2.4 calories in one gram of Xylitol, which is 40% fewer than there would be in the same amount of sugar. In addition, Xylitol has been shown to aid in the prevention of tooth decay and cavities and is also associated with enhanced calcium absorption. However, please remember that Xylitol does contain calories and should be eaten sparingly.
Chewing gum often contains Xylitol. Sugar-free confections, preserves, breads, cakes, and ice cream are just some of the various produced goods that can benefit from its incorporation. In its granulated form, Xylitol may be used interchangeably with sugar in many foods and drink items.
3. Coconut Sugar
Although coconut sugar is a natural sweetener originating in the East, coconut sugar contains a similar level of fructose to cane sugar. Coconut sugar does have a lower glycemic index than table sugar and could be a better option for those living with diabetes. That being said, coconut sugar can still have an effect on blood glucose, even though it may not be as high as regular table sugar consumption.
Using coconut sugar is simple since it can be substituted for white or brown sugar in any recipe that calls for sugar. The process for obtaining coconut sugar is more natural compared to table sugar, so this can be a better alternative vs regular sugar.
Honey, harvested from beehives, is one of the world’s oldest sweeteners. According to some research, consuming honey has been linked to increased levels of antioxidants in the blood. In addition, it has been employed as a therapeutic agent for many years thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiseptic qualities.
However, people with diabetes get no benefit from replacing sugar with honey since honey has the same impact on their blood glucose levels as sugar. In addition, as with other forms of honey, cooking destroys its nutritious value because heat triggers a chemical reaction that makes honey toxic.
Blended drinks, baked items, marinades, salad dressings, and sauces can all benefit from the addition of honey. Since honey is naturally sweeter than sugar, you may need to adjust the amount you use. Using honey to replace sugar in baked goods requires adjusting the liquid content accordingly, as honey contains water.
5. Monk Fruit
Among natural sweeteners, monk fruit is widely acknowledged to be far more palatable than regular table sugar. As a result, this little green melon, originally from southern China, has gained popularity as a sugar alternative in recent years. Now commonly used in sweets, it does not affect blood sugar because it contains no carbohydrates.
According to some people, there is an aftertaste associated with monk fruit sweeteners. So be wary of using that flavor in your food preparations if you know you have a sensitivity to it.
If you want the greatest results, you may need to adjust your recipes or combine this sweetener with others, just like you would with any other sweetener of comparable potency. Some monk fruit sweeteners are blended with other additives & sugar alcohols, which could affect nutritional value, so make sure to check the ingredient list in monk fruit sweetener.
6. Date Syrup
Date syrup, made by extracting the fruit’s natural sugars, has a higher nutritional density and more mineral and antioxidant content than sugar. In addition, date syrup has a low glycemic index because the fiber it contains prevents it from rapidly converting into glucose in the blood.
Its unique flavor and sweetness make it a great alternative to regular sugar in baked products and sweets. In addition, dates have many health advantages, but those benefits typically need to be recovered in the processing and bottling of commercially available date syrups.
Applesauce, especially unsweetened applesauce, is a great sugar replacement since it has fewer calories and is a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Replace white sugar in recipes with an equal quantity of unsweetened applesauce to cut calories significantly without compromising flavor.
In addition, applesauce provides enough moisture to prevent dryness in baked goods like cookies and muffins.
8. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar has fewer calories and more nutrients than honey, but more than table sugar. However, in certain cases, little is more because of how tasty it is.
However, excessive use can cause weight gain and obesity due to its high calorie and fructose content (even higher than high-fructose corn syrup). People with diabetes should probably avoid agave nectar.
Sweeter than sugar, agave may be used instead of sugar or other sweeteners in almost any recipe.
It tastes a lot like honey and doesn’t have the unpleasant aftertaste that other sugar alternatives have. However, because it is a liquid, you may need to adjust your recipes, particularly for baking.
9. Maple Syrup
Vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, and manganese, may all be found in plenty in maple syrup. However, like many other natural sweeteners, maple syrup is calorie-dense and should be eaten sparingly.
Don’t just settle with the usual breakfast fare. All kinds of sweet and savory recipes can benefit from the addition of maple syrup’s unique flavor.
Try it in savory foods like veggies, poultry, salmon, and salad dressings or as a sweetener in your morning coffee, plain yogurt, or oatmeal. If you want to use maple syrup in your baking, just cut back on the liquids called for.
10. Radapura Sugar
Replace refined white sugar with rapadura sugar for a sweeter taste that’s true to sugar without all the added processing. This raw cane sugar has been through fewer processing steps and hence retains more of its natural vitamins and minerals.
Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B1, B2, and B6 may all be found in large quantities in rapadura. In addition, Rapadura is a sugar cane product and can thus be used in both cooking and culinary applications.
Tips to Help Your Senior Parent Cut Back on Sugar
As we age, our taste receptors’ capacity and sensitivity decrease. Consequently, a person’s taste & smell can declines with age.
For example, taste and smell are both known to be impaired in those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disorders. I have found adding sugar alternatives to foods in the middle stages of dementia have helped with encouraging food consumption and to make the food more enjoyable. You may have to play around with different spices and seasonings to make healthy dishes more appetizing.
In the later stages of dementia, appetite and weight loss can occur. Understand that in the later stages of dementia (end stage), limited food/fluid intake is something to expect. This can be considered a ‘natural’ part of end of life & dying. This is why it’s important to speak with the doctor regarding any change in status, and any recommendations they may have for your loved one.
Senior home care providers may assist with weekly meal preparation to ensure that your aging loved one has access to nutritious food all week long. In order to design a home care plan that would allow them to age in place safely and comfortably, a senior home care agency may ask them in advance what their preferred meals are.
If an older person has been regularly partaking in sugar, it can be quite challenging to cut back on their intake. However, it might be much more challenging if they consume few fresh meals and instead rely heavily on packaged goods.
Here are some general tips for seniors looking to cut down on sugar intake.
1. Try Not to go Cold Turkey
If you or a senior family member often indulge in sugary foods, your body has likely adjusted to the extra glucose. Therefore, it is certain that you will experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, mood swings, and so on if you suddenly stop taking sugar.
Reduce your sugar intake gradually, instead. The withdrawal symptoms can be lessened, and quitting will be less of a struggle if this is done.
2. No Replacement Sugars
In an effort to reduce their sugar intake, your aging parents may switch to a different type of sweetener. However, there is some debate about whether or not artificial sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame are effective in treating sugar withdrawal.
The sweetness of artificial sweeteners may be what triggers hunger. When consumed in large quantities, they dull your taste for naturally sweet foods like fruits and make less sweet items seem unpleasant. For this reason, you’ll start craving sugary, fatty foods constantly.
3. Go Natural
The craving for something sweet might be overwhelming at times. Encourage the person you care about to snack on berries or something natural instead of reaching for a packaged, sugary snack.
You may use strawberries and lemon to make a smoothie or flavored water. This may be perfect if they’re looking for something sweet but want to cut back on sugar.
4. Avoid Sugary Beverages
Many popular beverages include sugar, which may quickly become very addictive. There’s a lot of sugar in these beverages, but they won’t help you feel full. Make them a healthy fruit and veggie smoothie if they’re craving something sweet to drink.
The Bottom Line
Numerous other compounds are frequently used as sugar substitutes; nevertheless, many of them might be considered added sugars, like honey and brown sugar. Some of these other substances that are commonly used as sugar substitutes are included below.
It is highly recommended that you steer clear of these different kinds of alternative sweeteners if you want to get the health advantages of a diet low in sugar.
The best part is that after adopting a low-sugar diet for several weeks, most individuals stop desiring sweets. It may seem difficult to limit the amount of sugar that your loved one consumes, but the effort will be well worth it because a low-sugar diet has numerous health advantages.
You should always contact the healthcare provider of the individual you are caring for before making any changes to their diet. This will allow you to ensure that any dietary adjustments you make are consistent with the health circumstances of the individual you are caring for.