Yes, sugar love is in your DNA. Researchers have found two sweet-receptor genes that can predict a preference for sweets.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends most women get no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day. That's about 6 teaspoons, or 100 caloriesa little less than the amount in one can of soda. Thing is, the average American woman eats about 18 daily teaspoons.
"Sugar is an important part of our lives," says Miriam Vos, MD, assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine. "But a little goes a long way." The AHA links added sugar to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In a nutshell, eating too much sugar can cause fat buildup in the liver, which can lead to these problems.
Sugar in the raw is no better than regular sugar. Agave nectar, alas, is also not great: Its main constituent, fructose, tends to get held up in the liver more than other types of sugar. Some sweeteners, like raw honey and sucanat, have trace nutrients, but they're all the same as white sugar in terms of caloriesand some contain even more calories.
Yes! The FDA deems stevia, aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda), and other cal-free sweeteners safe. "Short-term data suggests they're safer than table sugar," says Kimber Stanhope, PhD, a nutritional biologist at the University of California–Davis. Faux sugar won't cause blood-sugar spikes or weight gainand all the potential health ills. As Stanhope says, "I use them because I can't afford the extra calories!"