IS SUGAR BAD FOR YOU?
Hands down! The most common question I get asked from anyone that is looking to get into a healthier nutrition regimen (the other most common question being “Is fat good for you?”).
Let’s begin by understanding that our body needs sugar to function, it needs sugar to survive! Our bodies naturally feel drawn to fruit and vegetables, which provide the right amount of nutrients and carbohydrates to have the energy we need to be alive.
The question should no longer be “is sugar bad for me?”, the question should be “what’s the right amount and the right type of sweetener I should use to stay healthy?”. And yes, refined processed sugar is bad for you: It spikes your blood sugar, leads to weight gain, it can cause Diabetes Type II and other health disorders. It is believed that sugar is “the new Nicotine”, that’s how addicting sugar can be!
I know that choosing the healthiest sweeteners can be tough, I have compiled the top sweeteners that are healthier than white, refined and processed sugars.
WHAT’S THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF SWEETENER I SHOULD USE?
I am going to answer this question by saying that “there is no right amount”. Moderation is the key (I know, I know… that’s old school, but it is still the truth!)… Natural sweeteners are considered “natural” because they are close to pure state, however, that doesn’t mean you can overindulge on them. Moderation is still the key with all natural sweeteners, at the end of the day, they are still sugar!
BEST NATURAL SWEETENERS (ORGANIC VERSION PREFERRED!)
Coconut sugar has become one of my “to go” sweeteners. It is made from the sweet nectar of flower buds of the coconut palm. The coconut nectar is first heated until the water evaporates, then the caramelized nectar is dried and turn into the sugar granules we buy at the store. Coconut sugar contains vitamins and minerals. It has the same calories as regular sugar, although it has a lower glycemic index (it does not spike your blood sugar as fast as regular sugar). You can now find coconut sugar and organic coconut sugar in most food markets.
Date paste comes from macerated dates (softened in water), which are first ground and then turned into a fine paste. It has a mild sweet flavor and a light amber color. It is a great substitution for home made energy bars, smoothies and baking. Date paste is a great source of potassium and fiber. I truly think this is the ultimate sweetener, I usually store it in a Mason jar to preserve its flavor, consistency and nutrients.
MAPLE SYRUP (REAL MAPLE SYRUP)
Maple syrup is made from boiled-down maple tree sap (the sticky substance seeping out of trees). The bitter side of maple syrup is that most available maple syrup is highly processed maple-flavored corn syrup. In it’s “real version”, maple syrup is quite tasty. When looking for it at the store, make sure the label reads 100% maple syrup or Premium Grade B.
Molasses are derived from sugar cane or sugar beet. It is a healthier alternative when it comes to sweeteners. Although molasses have a very unique taste, they are sweet, nutritious and a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
The key here is the word “RAW”. When honey is raw, it means that it has not been through pasteurization, which allows the honey to not only be sweet, but also to preserve its natural health benefits such as enzymes, vitamins and minerals. The flavor and color of honey can change based on the origin of the plant.
Local raw honey is always preferred for many reasons. It helps local growers in your community, it’s typically “fresher” than store-bought honey and it can help you build immunity to local allergens as your body gets familiar with the bee pollen from local bees!! Farmer’s markets are usually a good place to find raw and local raw honey.
Stevia is a natural sweetener and a sugar substitute extracted from the Stevia plant. What people like about Stevia is that it is very very sweet (100 to 300 sweeter than sugar!) and it has no calories, no carbohydrates and no artificial ingredients. Stevia can be found in your local market in powder or liquid form. Make sure you pick the ones with the “organic” label on it. Also try to stick to the the green or brown versions; white and clear versions are highly refined forms of Stevia. (remember most foods that are white and clear are probably very refined!).
How sweet was that?… Just remember, even though all the sweeteners mentioned above are healthier than most commonly used sweeteners, moderation is still recommended.
Yours in Health,