Sweeteners: the good, the bad and the ugly

Sugar

 

Let’s talk about sweeteners.  First of all, it deserves mentioning that the average American consumes 60-100 pounds of sugar per year (numbers vary according to the source).  This is a drastic increase over the past 200 years, from approximately 18 pounds per year. Obviously, humans like the taste of sugar.  It doesn’t take much extrapolation to associate the increase in sugar consumption with the increase in obesity and diabetes, among other health problems.  It’s also easy to assume that the increase in available processed foods and drinks have made this easier to attain.

Of course, no sweeteners are good for you in large quantities, but let’s minimize the harm.  I hope you already know that natural sweeteners are the only way to go.  Honey and maple syrup are the best, because they don’t need to be processed to be good.  They are naturally sweet and don’t require chemical modification.  They can be used in almost any recipe that calls for sugar (you may need to adapt the other liquid ingredients).  Other great sweeteners include fruit purees, dates and other dried fruits or juices.

Here’s a breakdown of the bad stuff:

White sugar is a highly processed product from sugar cane.  Brown sugar is just slightly less processed, containing more of the natural molasses.  Molasses is just what comes out of processing sugar cane to make white sugar (molasses actually has some nutritional benefits, unlike white and brown sugar which have miniscule to NO nutrition).  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a chemical experiment that is 40-55% fructose (fruit is naturally 0-20% fructose).  It is known to be a major contributor to obesity- do not consume it.  Agave nectar is just as processed and bad for you as high fructose corn syrup.  It actually has more fructose than HFCS, at a whopping 55-90%!  If you own it, throw it away.

Artificial sweeteners like Splenda, NutraSweet, and Equal are chemicals that trick your taste buds into thinking that there is something useful like sugar coming down the tube. Therefore, your body gets all excited for it but then nothing comes of it.  Your gut and liver have to break down these strange chemicals and they don’t know what to do with them.  There have been many studies linking bladder cancer to these sweeteners.  Do NOT use them.

Stevia is a “natural” sweetener, but is rather processed to be in form that is useful.  Have you ever tasted it and noticed the strange aftertaste?  It’s the best out of the other processed sugars, but… Why?  Just use fruit, honey or maple syrup for those times that you want something sweet.

If you have ever tried to completely avoid sugar, you know how hard it is.  It is in products that you would never expect.  Also, taking it away creates a strong desire for it, just like an addiction.  Although it’s not easy to give up, once you do you will realize that you do not need it. You will also notice how excessively sweet everything is! You will be all the better for it.

 

{Disclaimer: this is not considered personal medical advice, and you should speak with a physician before making diet and lifestyle changes. I’m happy to be that physician; all you need to do is schedule an appointment with me}

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