The Sugar Issue

As this season of vacations is coming to an end, I have to say I’m pretty excited about autumn, my favorite season. Before too long, cool weather will be here and the desire to eat light, fresh veggies will give way and the cravings for delicious heavy foods and sweets will take its place.Given how many of us have massive sugar cravings, when it comes to finding alternatives, it’s important to know that not all sweeteners are created equal.

The Big Bads

White table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet and Splenda have been stripped of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They often spike the blood sugar, which can often lead to more cravings and mood and energy fluctuations.

The Alternatives

Don’t lose hope though, here are a few choices you can use to substitute sugar in drinks, food, and baking:

  • Raw Honey – Honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Some are very dark and intensely flavored. Wherever possible, choose raw honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins.
  • Brown Rice Syrup – My new favorite. Gluten-free and super sweet, this sweetener is derived by culturing cooked rice with enzymes (usually from dried barley sprouts) to break down the starches. It has a much higher glycemic index than table sugar, so not much is needed to achieve the same effect. There has been some troubling news about brown rice syrup, however, and that is that it’s a source of arsenic due to the brown rice grains pulling it from the soil as it’s grown. Read this article or watch the video to understand how it is harmful for infants and children, but safe for adults.
  • Maple Syrup – Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks. Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties are best.

You may have heard that agave nectar is a natural sweetener. This is not the case. It is heavily processed and contains up to 70% fructose, which is more than high-fructose corn syrup (55%). Do not be fooled by the “raw” and “organic” labels in the store.

You may ask – sugar is sugar right? What does it matter where it comes from? The answer is that fructose found naturally in fruits, for example, is able to be converted into energy, whereas manufactured fructose goes straight to body fat. The main takeaway here is to find natural sources of sugars or the lesser-refined ones.