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The Surprising Ingredient That Could Make Added Sugar Obsolete

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A Colorado-based startup may have the answer for making packaged foods taste good without added sugars.

As we well know, sugar is used in plenty of foods to help balance out bitter flavors. But MycoTechnology has taken a different approach by blocking your ability to taste bitterness. If this food ingredient takes off, it could make the addition of sugar and other sweeteners to foods unnecessary.

How does it work? The bitter blocker is a fungus called mycelium. After being crushed into a powder, mixed with liquid, and added to bitter-tasting foods, it latches on to the bitter tastebuds on your tongue until your saliva flushes it away. That's just enough time to fool your taste buds into not tasting any bitterness, meaning you won't need the sweet stuff.

This is great news, given that consuming too much added sugar is linked to a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. On average, American adults, teens, and children get about 15 percent of their daily calories from sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting added sugars from processed and packaged foods to 5 to 10 percent of your calories, which is about 6 to 12 teaspoons a day—and we're usually well over that. Heck, drink a 12-ounce can of Coke or Pepsi and you're already more than 9 teaspoons of sugar in. The same goes for seemingly healthy choices—granola bars, vitamin water, and flavored yogurt all have added sugars too, so you can see how easy it is to fly right over that 12-teaspoon limit. 

So where can you get mycelium? It isn't available in the U.S. or Canada quite yet, but it's been approved in Australia and will be making its way to Japan and the European Union soon. But if you travel to any of these places, you won't even know if you're eating mycelium. First of all, it has no flavor. Second, it falls under the general heading of "natural flavors" on the ingredient list. As a dietitian who pushes for full discloure of what's in our food, I don't think we should allow generalities like that on our ingredient lists.

The downside to mycelium is that it's such a new ingredient. So we don't know what the long-term effects are, how much of it we can safely consume, and whether or not it'll have any affects on our health. Often this research isn't done until the ingredient has been in our food for some time, so as of now only time will tell. 

In the meantime, it is possible to manage your sweet tooth (because regardless, mycelium won't be a holy grail or magic pill to cure sugar addiction). The best way to cut down on added sugars is to eat whole foods as much as possible. Make sure you're eating enough slow-digesting carbs, like quinoa and steel-cut oats, paired with proteins and healthy fats to help minimize cravings. Then get your sweet fix from fruit packed with fiber and antioxidants. Try my berry crumble pie or mango froyo for naturally-sweetened desserts you can feel good about!

 

Christy Brissette, RD

Christy Brissette is one of North America’s top dietitians and a leading nutrition and food communications expert. She is the President of 80 Twenty Nutrition, a nutrition and food media company and private practice. Her mission? To end food confusion and dieting once and for all.  More →

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