Sugar and Sugar Alternatives: What’s the Deal?
Hello ladies! So you’re probably catching the drift that sugar is really not good for you, which is true – and also sad for those of us (like me!) who have a pretty major sweet tooth.
But what about all those sweet alternatives? Like agave nectar, honey, stevia?
Here’s what you need to know about sugar and sugar substitutes.
Good Ol’ White Sugar
This is super processed and basically toxic stuff. Every once in a while as a treat? Totally fine in my book. But it should not be a part of your everyday experience. You may also find that after you remove it for a while that you notice just how terrible you feel after consuming it. I even get a sore throat nearly immediately when I have too much of it these days – but I still slip up!
More on white (cane) sugar:
- Cane sugar is an anti-nutrient: your body actually has to leach minerals from your blood and bones in order to metabolize it.
- Cane sugar suppresses your immune system due to hormone imbalances that begin with your blood sugar and insulin.
- It contributes to the diabetes and obesity epidemic.
Other Sugars to Be Wary Of
Pretty much any ingredient ending in -ose is a sugar, so check those labels! Other processed sugars in include maltose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose and fructose. These are all processed simple sugars that should be avoided as much as possible.
A note on High Fructose Corn Syrup: the farming lobbies don’t want you to know it, but this is one of the biggest contributors to the obesity epidemic in the United States. It’s also the gem that gave Morgan Spurlock, star of Super Size Me, non-alcoholic fatty liver syndrome after eating McDonald’s for 30 days straight.
Also as an FYI, evaporate cane juice is still sugar and just as bad.
Honey can have just as much of an affect on blood sugar levels, and some of it is also super processed as well. I personally do Ok with raw honey, and might have a spoonful here or there as dessert! I also like to put it on pears. So then we have some fruit sugar added into the mix, but I figure at least its coming with some fiber.
Raw honey is one of those things I think you have to try for yourself and gauge how you feel. Best way to do this is to eliminate all sugars for a few days at least, and then have a spoonful. Do you experience any symptoms like headaches or brain fog? Notice a surge or dip in energy? Have more sugar cravings after having it? These things wil tell you if its Ok for you.
Bonus: raw honey is packed with antioxidants!
Fruit Sugar (Fructose)
Since I’ve mentioned it now, many fruits are also high in sugar. There’s some controversy in the wellness world over the place of fruits. I’m of the school that low-sugar fruits (berries, green apples) are totally Ok. Other fruits are best in moderation – the perfect special treat! It’s much less damaging to the system because the fruit sugar is bound up with fiber and other nutrients, but can still pack a punch when it comes to your blood sugar because the sugar in fruit (fructose) is not easily processed by the body.. Fruit juice on the other hand really has just as much sugar in it as a soda. And fructose on its own or in processed food is a no-no.
Saccarin, Aspartame, Splenda
All of these have come under fire as being potential toxins, linked to neurological damage and bladder cancer. I’d steer clear.
Agave was once the darling of the health industry after it was discovered that it didn’t spike blood sugar levels (so it ranks low on the Glycemic Index). However it has since been discovered that it has more fructose in it then High Fructose Corn Syrup and basically has the same affect on the body. Best avoided.
Maple syrup on the other hand has much less fructose in it then agave nectar, and actually has less of a blood sugar impact then regular cane sugar. Its also packed with nutrients like B vitamins, zinc and manganese. This is another Ok in moderation one that you should test out on your system to see how your body reacts to it. (See instructions for that under ‘Honey’).
My Go-To Sweeteners
As I mentioned above, I have a definite sweet tooth. Stevia is my sweetener of choice. Easy to use in coffee, tea and in baking, but careful – a little goes a long way! Stevia has a mildly alkalizing affect on the body and does not spike blood sugar levels. Be careful when you buy stevia to make sure there are no other additives mixed in with it.
I’ve also been experimenting with Lucuma and Yacon Root sweeteners. Lucuma has a milder sweetness but both are packed with antioxidants, so they’re practically superfoods in their own right! Yacon sugars do not go into the blood stream but pass through the digestive tract feeding beneficial gut bacteria along the way.