It’s become apparent to me based on the talks I’ve given and clients that I’ve coached that people are fascinated with the topic of sugar. Even if the talk isn’t focused on sugar, it’s the subject on which we invariably spend the most time. They want to know which sweeteners are the safest and healthiest to use. Why? Because in general, we’re addicted to sugar and the thought of life without it doesn’t seem possible.
Not that this seems unreasonable. Consider the fact that we have sweet receptors on our tongues in the first place. They must be there to serve a purpose. Yet, since the 1800’s, our consumption of sweet foods and beverages has skyrocketed from 10-20 pounds of sugar per year per person to approximately 152 pounds. With the epidemics of obesity and diabetes we’re experiencing now, and with the understanding of what sugar can do to the body, it’s clear that we’re eating too much for our own good.
Of course, we often turn to sugar because it is an antidote when we are stressed out or wired. It is an expansive drug that temporarily relieves the contraction we experience as a result of our fast-paced, overly scheduled lives. But the more we rely on it, the more we rely on it.
My answer to those who ask which sugars are the best to eat is usually, “pick your poison”, because if you regularly consume any type of sugar, it will have a negative impact on the body. However, since the interest is still there, here’s the list with regard to healthier options I usually give to my audiences. My bottom line, however, is to reduce overall consumption. The less of it you eat, the less you’ll crave it.
Coconut sugar - As a granulated sugar, it’s popularity is on the rise as a low glycemic sweetener (it’s GI score is 35 and it is evidently low in fructose) that is produced from the nectar of the cut flower buds of coconuts trees. It is a good source of minerals and B vitamins and has a more complex flavor than brown sugar. It can be used one to one in cooking and baking.
Sucanat - This sweetener is a minimally processed version of cane sugar in the form of grains rather than the crystals of processed white cane sugar. It has a strong, brown sugar taste. It is also rich in minerals and can be used in place of white or brown sugar in cooking and baking.
Honey - Raw honey is a natural source of anti-oxidants and has antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It is similar to sugar in that it contains both glucose and fructose and actually has 22 calories per teaspoon versus 16 for sugar. To reap its benefits, it should only be eaten raw; therefore, it’s not ideal for cooking or baking.
Real Maple Syrup - This sweetener is produced by boiling down the sap of Maple trees from a slightly cloudy, almost clear liquid to an amber syrup. If you’d like to see a demo, please watch here. Maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc and researchers at The University of Rhode Island have identified 34 beneficial compounds, many of which possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Blackstrap Molasses - The product of the third boiling down of sugar syrup to produce sugar, black strap molasses is high in minerals including manganese, copper, iron and calcium. It has a strong, distinctive flavor and is often used in baked beans and baked goods.
Brown Rice Syrup - Sprouted barley enzymes are used to break down brown rice’s carbohydrates to produce a sweet, syrupy product that is a good source of B vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and iron. It’s low in glucose with the remaining carbohydrates coming from maltose and soluble, slow-release complex carbohydrates. It can be used for cooking and baking.
Stevia - A non-calorie, non-glycemic sweetener, Stevia is actually an herb whose leaves are 300 times more sweet than sugar. Now widely available in the U.S., it can be purchased as a white powder or liquid drops. The purest form is found as a green powder produced from the dried, ground, green leaves. Look for this form in natural food stores or herbal shops.
Lakanto - Produced from non-GMO erythritol and the extract of a fruit called luo han guo, this is a zero calorie sweetener that has been used in Japan for over a decade. Unlike other non-caloric, artificial sweeteners, it has so far been shown to be safe. It is produced in granules, has a mild taste, and can be used one to one in replace of sugar. It can be purchased online.
Image courtesy of Maggie Smith
Linda DiBella is a nutrition and lifestyle mentor who helps clients gradually change their diet and lifestyle habits so they can lose weight, eliminate their dependency on stimulants, have more energy, and improve their moods. She works with clients in person, over the phone, or Skype. For more information, visit her website at http://www.getreal4health.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.