What sweetener should you use?!
I am not going to lie, I love walking through bakeries and seeing all the beautiful cakes decorated lavishly with many colors and designs. And candy stores, full of jars and containers hanging on the wall, all containing an assortment of colors are also quite beautiful to me, but how beautiful is it really?
Not only are these candies and cakes filled with chemical food coloring to make them beautiful and appealing to the eye, but they are also full of processed sugars. Whether it be white sugar, artificial sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup…these sweets have a not so sweet side. While I do believe in enjoying everything in moderation, I also understand the importance of making the best choices for my body and my health.
There has been lots of research on the dangers of eating a diet high in sugar, including fruits, but I find that choosing the right sweeteners and using them in moderation is the best thing we can do. I would never ask people to eliminate fruits from their diet or to never enjoy a piece of chocolate cake again! BUT, I would say to pay attention to the ingredients in the foods you are buying and try to make the best choice EVERY DAY.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS is probably the number one thing you have to look for in foods. HFCS is a high calorie sweetener that can be found in everyday items like jams, ice creams, and soft drinks, but some people don’t realize it is also in bread, salad dressings, ketchup, and other condiments. While it’s caloric value and sweetness is super similar to sugar, making it seem like an even competitor in ‘bad sugars,’ it is not. Click here
to read how the two are different and to learn more about why you don’t want to consume HFCS!
Corn syrup is made by an enzymatic process from the glucose syrup derived from corn, categorized by many names
- maize syrup
- high fructose corn syrup
- corn sugar
- …and so on
HFCS has been linked to metabolic disorders, fatty liver condition, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and even punching holes in the intestinal lining. Again, visit this post for more info!
TAKE HOME FACT: Avoid HFCS in your everyday purchases and meals. Don’t get terrified if you accidentally eat something with HFCS, but make an informed choice to avoid it!
Zero Calorie Artificial Sweeteners
I wrote an in depth post on why we should avoid these babies…they are just plain bad. You might have been led to believe that artificial sweeteners like aspartame are safer, and less likely to cause you to gain weight, but that just ain’t true! Sure, they don’t have calories or fructose, but with this comes side effects such as tumors, cancer, alzheimers…need I go on.
Refined White Sugar- Bleached and Beautiful?
While seeing sugar on a package has become a godsend due to the mainstream use of HFCS and artificial sweeteners in packaged goods, it still plays a tole on our systems. White sugar has been bleached with
chlorine bleach to make it that pure white color…that sounds really pure and great for us right? In its natural state, sugar is actually brown! I was lucky enough to see REAL sugar can sugar while I was studying abroad in Costa Rica years ago. Not only did I get to see sugar cane growing all around me, but I was able to see how they turned this local commodity into sugar cane juice, and the hardened sugar, tapa dulce. Costa Ricans were lucky enough to buy the sugar that was grown and processed right in their backyards!
INTERESTING FACT: The brown sugar we purchase has been processed down into white grains (by bleaching) and then the juice or brown part that comes off is then placed back in the mix. So, no, normal brown sugar isn’t the real stuff either…makes no sense to me!
Sugar in the Raw
“Enjoy sweet moments naturally with Sugar In The Raw®, our all-natural Turbinado sugar grown in the tropics. The hearty, golden crystals are never bleached, so they keep the rich flavor and color of their natural molasses. So go on, stir it in or sprinkle it on. Bake and cook with it too. Whatever you do, just do it naturally with Sugar In The Raw®. “
While this sugar is called “raw,” it actually isn’t, so there is some deceptive marketing going on here. The HealthyHomeEconomis
t also compared it to sucanat and it was a lighter color, meaning it has probably been more processed than their advertisements say. However, I think it is definitely better than white sugar that is processed around 20 times with chemicals and fun bleaching agents.
Coconut Sugar/ Sucanat
Both of these sugars are probably the most natural you can get when it comes to sugar. They are both great choices for a refined sugar replacement!
Sucanat is simply dehydrated cane sugar juice and has been used for thousands of years. This process allows it to maintain its nutrients and molasses, giving it a richer flavor and at least some nutritional value.
is processed from the sap of the coconut plant in a similar process as the sucanat sugar. The liquid sap is collected from the flower of the coconut palm and then dried into sugar crystals. Coconut sugar also maintains its nutrients and is considered to be lower glycemic due to the inulin fiber which slows the absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream.
And, according to the Phillipine Department of Agriculture, ‘coconut sugar contains several nutrients: Most notable of these are the minerals Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide some health benefits.’
I for one love stevia and it is a PLANT, how great. I actually used to have a plant and I would put it into
smoothies with peaches and mint…it was delicious. Unfortunately my green thumb is a little yellow…still working on that.
Now, some people have a hard time with the flavor of stevia, but I suggest trying it and seeing for yourself! Make sure not to get the white kind because stevia is a green plant so in powdered form it should still be green! Check out this article
for more info!
Maple syrup is a living food. But, it is not raw. Sap from the maple tree is boiled into a syrup. The condensed sugars are pro-biotic and hence, “living”. Grade B Maple syrup has a higher nutrient content than grade A, and grade B usually costs less…double positive!
Honey Honey, how IT thrills me, uhuh HONEY HONEY
I love honey for so many reasons, the number one reason probably being that it can be sourced LOCALLY,
making it probably the best sweetener that you can use! You obviously want the honey raw so it can keep all of it’s natural enzymes, bacteria fighting abilities, vitamins, and minerals. If it is local it will also be better at helping fight the common cold or building up your resistance to the seasons flu’s or infections. This is because it contains small amounts of these bacteria that will build your immunity against it. Local is also always better for ecological reasons too. We don’t want food that has been shipped all over the place. Honey provides you with energy, has antibacterial, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, and tastes delicious.
Honey may also help break down bread as it is being digested. So next time you want something a little sweeter use a local, raw honey! Oh, and it helps get rid of blemishes and heals cut
****I want to reiterate that even though sucanat, coconut sugar, honey, and grade B maple syrup have their positive aspects, they are still very high in fructose which isn’t fabulous for our bodies. They do contain some vitamins and minerals, but you would have to consume a hefty amount to have it amount to much!
You could write a novel on the issues associated with over-consumption of sugar. It can obviously lead to diabetes, but has also been linked to heart disease, behavioral issues, cancer, and just a weakened immune system in general. This is especially true for processed sugars…heating a pure fruit juice (pasteurizing) or honey can completely change their affect on the body…
Studies have been done with processed orange juice, processed honey, and the all glorious white sugar. These studies showed that these ‘sweets’ significantly lower white blood cell count, decreasing immunity. This is because once heated, even orange juice and honey are like putting sugar straight into your body because it doesn’t contain the life-giving substances which help the natural sugars metabolize…and a lot of the vitamins and nutrients are destroyed.
When you consume fresh fruits or raw honey you have vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids which helps your body with the digestion and absorption of sugar. When you are just putting sugar straight into your body, it is having to create more energy to metabolize it and produce more insulin.
So, bottom line: the best sources of sugars will always be fresh fruits (try baking with bananas and sweetening with dates!)! Then honey, grade B maple syrup, sucanat, coconut sugar, and for a zero-calorie sweetener, stevia!