Yummmm, sugar. Let’s face it, life as a human means we naturally crave sweetness – in our lives and in our tummies. Unfortunately, life as a human also means that most of us live in a very fast-paced processed world, where refined sugar is rampant. If you remember from my previous post about carbohydrates, our bodies and brains need sugar (glucose) in order to function properly.
“But Emily, how can I get the glucose I need without consuming plain sugar?”
Yes, it is possible to get all the glucose our bodies need without once consuming any refined white sugar!
Why is it recommended to decrease intake of refined sugars?
Sugar does fuel our cells, but too much sugar, and/or refined sugar can actually harm us. What is refined sugar? Any form of sugar where it’s natural constituents (fibre, nutrients) are taken out, usually for the purpose of profit and quick production. Sugar cane is a giant long fibrous plant that is sweet when you bite into it 🙂 In processing, the sugar is extracted from its fibrous plant home, bleached, then turned into the white crystals we use in coffee 😦
These are some of the things that happen when we ingest pure sugar:
– pancreas releases insulin upon sugar absorption. If insulin cannot keep up, you may be diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic, and extra sugar floating around in your blood will get stored as fat, leading to weight gain.
– sugar is a sharp crystal molecule, which can cause damage to artery lining, leading to heart problems or high cholesterol.
– immune cells can be immobilized by sugar for up to 4 hours, decreasing your immune functioning.
What are the alternates?
Nature has provided us with all the sugar we need – natural sugars occurring in fruits, vegetables, plants and trees. By consuming natural, unprocessed sweeteners, our bodies will work more efficiently because the sugars are balanced within their natural setting. Note – calories are not important to me with natural sweeteners, i.e. I’d prefer you had 1 tbsp of honey with 200 calories than 1 tbsp Splenda with 0 calories. Does nature make Splenda? No….a guy in a lab does. A healthy body can inherently tell when something is natural and when something is not. It responds accordingly.
Xylitol – comes from the inside of birch trees! Can be used in baking with a 1 to 1 substitute ratio for white sugar. Not too sweet, I’d say a little less sweet than sugar, and has no aftertaste like some people find with stevia. Xylitol also has cool research showing it to be anti-cavity and anti-bacterial, making it a great ingredient in toothpastes and nasal sprays.
Maple syrup – a Canadian treat! Comes from maple trees. Look for brands that say 100% pure maple syrup…..i.e. not Aunt Jemima’s syrup that lists the follwing ingredients: “corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, caramel, colour, salt, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, sodium hexametaphosphate…”…….where is the maple?????
Lucuma – is a fruit from Peru. Very mild sweet taste and does not raise blood sugars quickly. Naturally high in beta carotene, zinc, iron and calcium. Cool!
Stevia – stevia is a naturally sweet plant that you can grow. It is getting really popular so I will just suggest that if you want to use stevia, look for natural unprocessed stevia, such as this one from Organic Traditions. Lots of companies are making their stevia look like white sugar, but stevia is a green plant so technically the powder should be green!!
Coconut sugar – extracted from coconut sap (from palm trees) and dried. Look for brands that harvest this sugar sustainably.
Agave syrup – this isn’t really a great option anymore as the processing of agave syrup has become very common 😦
Molasses – this is what’s left over after turning sugar cane into sugar. It is very sticky and kinda sweet, and a great natural source of iron and magnesium!
Last but not least….HONEY
Could raw honey BEE any more beautiful? Raw honey is really sweet but has natural enzymes, probiotics and minerals in it. It also contains little bits of wax and bee pollen for extra nutrients and immune support!