Sweet Stuff

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Many of us do our best to minimize or avoid sugar in our diets. Did you know though that when reading a food label you need to look for more than just the word ‘sugar’ in the list of ingredients?

Look for words ending in “ose”, like high fructose corn syrup, maltose, and sucrose.  White sugar has been stripped of its important minerals, vitamins, and fiber and hence just contains ‘empty’ calories. After eating a white sugar filled food, sugar pours into the bloodstream so fast that it’s hard for the body to assimilate! The body reacts to this influx in sugar (glucose) levels by over-secreting the hormone insulin.  High insulin levels cause blood sugar to drop to a very low level, which can result in hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar).  When this happens we often reach for yet another sugar-filled food, which triggers the cycle all over again.  The other problem with excess insulin secretion is that it triggers excess storage of fat leading to weight gain.

Some sugar facts that may surprise you:

  • A 12-ounce can of a typical soft drink, for example, contain about nine teaspoons of refined white sugar.
  • Sugar is the number one food additive. It's consumed ten times more than all other 2,600 or so food additives put together. Salt is a distant second.
  • A tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar.
  • Foods such as breads, soups, cereals, cured meats, hot dogs, lunch meat, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, crackers, mayonnaise, peanut butter, pickles, frozen pizza, canned fruits and veggies, tomato juice and many others all contain sugar.
  • Brown sugar sold in supermarkets is refined white sugar with some molasses put back into it for color and flavor. It is not a health food.

So What IS a good Sweetener?

Unrefined Sugars

Whenever you can, choose sugar products that have not been refined and therefore have more fiber and nutrients. Examples include:

  • Honey
  • Rice syrup
  • Maple syrup - Some maple syrups contain residue of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Therefore it is always best to purchase organic when you can. Maple syrup is also a good source of potassium and calcium.
  • Maple sugar
  • Sucanat - Sucanat, stands for sugar cane natural and is derived from evaporated sugar cane juice. Sucanat contains more vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients than white sugar. It is an all-purpose sweetener and should be used in a 1 to 1 replacement for white sugar.
  • Barley malt syrup - Barley malt syrup is half as sweet as white sugar and is best used in combination with other sweeteners. Barley malt syrup contains a variety of trace minerals and vitamins.  1½ cups of barley malt is equal to ½ cup of white sugar.
  • Date sugar - Comes from dehydrated dates. It is high in fiber and contains folic acid. Date sugar can be used in a 1 to 1 replacement for white sugar.

I'm not suggesting you should completely eradicate sugar from your diet in this post, but now that you're aware of some of these 'sugar facts', you can make more informed choices about what types of sugar and how much you consume, as well as how it may affect your energy levels throughout the day.

Erika DeJesus