Sugar…the sweetness that makes life worth living! People have loved sugar from the moment that it was discovered in the first century. It is often mixed with just about every food group (grains, fruits, dairy) with joyful abandon. Sugar has been the topic and focus of movies, songs, and the antidote to all of life’s hardships. But is sugar good for you? Many do not think so, so we offer some tips in moderating the sugars in your life.
The Science of Sugar:
- Sugars are soluble carbohydrates.
- There are several types of “sugars:”
- Fructose: single sugar or monosaccharide, in fruits and vegetables
- Glucose: single sugar or monosaccharide, the sugar that the body uses for energy
- Sucrose: disaccharide with glucose + fructose, common table sugar
- Lactose: disaccharide with glucose + galactose, milk sugar
- Maltose: disaccharide with glucose + glucose
When we think of sugar in foods, we are talking about SUCROSE. White sugars typically come from a sugar cane plant or a sugar beet (different than red garden beets). These white sugars are high in sucrose can potentially spike insulin, which is a hormone in the body that helps our cells use and control blood sugar levels. Further, dysregulated insulin is the root cause of developing Type II Diabetes.
Sugar in the modern diet can also refer to high fructose foods, like high fructose corn syrup, which may cause high levels of insulin in the body.
Here is the download on sugar substitutes:
Coconut Sugar: This is a natural brown sugar substitute. Try putting this in your sugar bowl at home. Coconut sugar has a glycemic index of 35. 1 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Xylitol: It may sound like an artificial chemical sweetener. However, it occurs naturally in fruits and certain plants and is most commonly sold for consumption after being extracted from birch bark. Xylitol is all-natural and looks just like sugar. You can use it cup for cup to replace sugar in recipes. Slowly incorporate xylitol into your food as too much at one time can cause GI distress. Use 1 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Other Substitution Options:
Honey: One of the oldest natural sweeteners, honey is sweeter than sugar, with different flavors depending on the plant source. Some honey is very dark and strongly flavored. Raw honey contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. 1/2-2/3 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Maple Syrup: Maple syrup adds a nice flavor to foods. To clarify, make sure you buy 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. Organic varieties are best. 1/2-2/3 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Date Sugar: Date Sugar is made from dehydrated, ground dates and is used as you would brown sugar. It’s a natural and non-processed wholesome food with high fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While it can substitute an equal amount of granulated or brown sugar, it doesn’t dissolve in liquids, doesn’t melt, and can clump, making it impractical for some types of baking. Use 2/3 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Brown Rice Syrup: This product has a molasses consistency and is very sweet. The brown rice is ground, cooked, and mixed with enzymes that change the starch into maltose. 1 and 1/3 cups to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Stevia: Stevia is an herb from the rainforests of the Amazon and is 100 times sweeter than white sugar. This is an excellent sweetener because it does not affect blood sugar or the pancreas. Stevia is available in a powder or liquid in most natural food stores. The dark liquids are best, and just a drop or two will sweeten a cup of tea.