Sweeteners are a common part of our society these days, however, you should reduce your sweetener consumption as much as possible. If you choose to use sweeteners you should always choose the best and highest quality sweetener that you can because of the health effects that they have on us. You should try to choose the most natural and nutrient dense sweeteners as possible. You should give yourself a break though when you want to make that great icing with loads of white sugar from time to time though.
Sweeteners have had a devastating effect on our societies health over the past hundred years. The amount of simple sugar in our diet has increased dramatically over the years. In the 1800’s our diet had approx. 12 pounds of sugar/person/year. Then in 1915 it had increased to 95 pounds and in 1990 it had increased all of the way up to 130 – 140 pounds/person/year. This has lead to problems with our blood sugar, our weight, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
So what is sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate and it is the fastest source for energy. There are two kinds of carbohydrates though, one is a simple carbohydrate, the other is a complex carbohydrate. It is the simple carbohydrates that are affecting us the most. You find simple carbohydrates in white sugars and honey, while you’ll find complex carbohydrates in vegetables, grains, beans and peas and other natural sources. When grains are processed and refined they are reduced so much that they are essentially simple carbohydrates to the body. Due to this the American diet consists of 50% simple carbohydrates. In previous diets simple sugar was only a fraction of the entire diet while the rest of it consisted of complex carbohydrates.
When you look on the labels to see what you are eating you wont see just sugar. You’ll see the more technical names for it. There are three types of simple sugars (monosaccharide). They are dextrose, fructose (from fruit, processed in liver) and glucose (main source of energy, processed in Pancreas). Complex sugars (disaccharide) are multiple simple sugars combined.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a danger to us because it is not a natural substance. HFCS is fructose and glucose combined but not bound. Therefore the body doesn’t understand what to do with it. In a natural food they would be bound together and the body would be able to process it easier. Fructose raises blood pressure, increases inflammation, raises blood sugar and turns off the “stop eating” mechanism. HFCS is found in a tremendous amount of food like products these days.
You will also see sugar alcohol xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and erythritol listed on the labels. There are cool and refreshing on your tongue. They say that these will not spike your blood sugar. They do however have a laxative effect and are not as sweet as sucrose. A good one would be Lacanato. It is a fermented sugar product from Body Ecology. This is from the plant lo han kuo.
Some artificial sugars to look out for are Splenda (chemically related to DDT), Equal, Nutrisweet, sweet and low, aspartame (causes brain cancer in rats), saccharin and sucralose (chlorinated manmade product). I would avoid all artificial sugars.
The next step would be processed sugars such as white sugar and brown sugar. White sugar is very highly processed and should not be consumed on a regular basis. Brown sugar is often thought of as being more natural but typically it is also highly processed and then artificially colored. Agave is an unregulated sugar from Mexico that is highly processed (80% fructose), but has more fructose than HFCS which is a good thing. It is made from starches and has a low glycemic index. Unfortunately it is not nutrient dense. If you are going to purchase this you should purchase raw blue agave. Turbinado sugar is from sugar cane. It is processed but has some of the actual molasses left in it.
Natural sugars are exactly that. Natural and the best for you. They will retain the most amount of other nutrients and the body will be able to process them correctly. Some of them are honey, maple syrup, cocunut sap, maple crystals, stevia (300% as sweet as sugar with little effect on blood sugar), black strap molasses and fruit purees. Sucanat is a natural sugar that is not very processed. It is evaporated/dehydrated sugar cane and maintains a lot of the nutrients in it. It will also turn everything brown which a lot of people are not used to these days.
So what are the dangers of sugars? They are numerous. Refined sugars have all of the nutrients stripped away and this causes an increase in weight. Insulin regulates your blood sugar and helps to turn it into glucose for energy or into fat for storage. This is why you don’t lose weight on a low fat diet. When they produce “low fat” foods they increase the sugar content which then is turned into fat in your body by the insulin. With the constant assault on your body of this sugar you are also overworking your pancreas. This leads to problems with the effectiveness of the insulin and the actual production of insulin in the body. The insulin receptors will actually stop responding to the insulin. This then leads to diabetes. One way to keep an eye on this type of stuff is through the glycemic index and the glycemic load. The glycemic index is a standard that shows how quickly a food turns into blood sugar in the body. The glycemic load takes that a step further by taking into account the amount of food most people actually eat. Therefore the glycemic load is a better indicator. It is important to eat foods with a low glycemic index and load.
Sweeteners will also decrease your immunity for 6 hours with just 1 Tbsp by impairing the germ killing ability of white blood cells, interfering with Vitamin C transportation and neutralizing usefullness of essential fatty acids. While the body requires sugar in the blood stream you DO NOT need to supplement it. A normally healthy body is easily capable of working properly on the amount of sugars found in a healthy diet.
An increase in sugar has also been shown to lead to cardiovascular disease. Insulin regulates your triglycerides, you will have a decrease in the LDL cholesterol (good), you will have an increase in obesity and high blood pressure as well which are all risk factors for heart disease.
There is a lot of debate about the role of sweeteners and sugar in cancer. However it looks as though tumors love sugar. They typically grow when there is excess sugar and tend to stop growing when sugar is removed from the diet. There are several books and lots of research on these topics.
Some other options are as follows
Brown rice syrup – 20% – 30% as sweet as sugar. Brown rice and grain combined. 50% complex carbohydrate, 45% maltose, 5% glucose. Is gluten free. You should be careful if using this with a diabetic.
Dates (or other fruit puree) – These are good because you maintain the entire edible portion of the fruit. You can soak or cook them then puree them. At this time you can use the puree to replace the sugar as an ingredient. Sugar is considered a wet ingredient in baking.
Yacon – hardly used, is a plant. Use slices of the plant of as a syrup. You can also pulverize the slices into a powder. It has a molasses/caramel flavor and is a better choice for diabetics. It is however hardly used.
Barley malt – fermented malt, not good for gluten free individuals, metabolizes slowly, has a strong flavor and is used in bread baking.
Rapiduro – Brand name for a dried sugar cane juice. Not good for diabetics
Tips for replacing sugar
– Must know the sweetness of your products and then add slowly
– Sometimes you have to change liquid for dry and adjust accordingly
Tips for curbing sugar cravings
– Eat fruit by itself
– Do not eat concentrated sweeteners for breakfast
– Eat more mineral rich foods
– Add more naturally sweet foods into your diet (sweet potatoes, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamon)
– Eat meals at a regular interval
– Eat more alkalizing foods
– Eat protein
– Eat ginger before meals
– Reduce and get rid of simple sugars and processed foods
– Eat high quality fats
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