Who doesn’t like sugar? There has been a lot of bad press about sugar lately, including its link to diabetes, obesity and cancer. The darn stuff is just a devil in angel’s clothing. I mean, how harmful can a fluffy little ol’ vanilla cupcake with rich, buttery icing be? Well, one won’t kill you, but day after day after day, it will.
As a certified health coach, today is my day to educate you about sugars; the different kinds, the harms and benefits. I am finishing up week 3 without sugar and it has been PAINFUL! But, my own experience has been, #1: less headaches, #2: more energy, 3# – still waiting on a few excess lbs to fall off, but overall, I am kicking the sugar addiction with some added bonuses!
Did you know that sugar is as addicting as cocaine according to brain scans? A recent study says it’s even more addicting. Oh great, you say! I know, trust me. I love sweets and that crazy white stuff (sugar, not cocaine thank you). We all have that vision as kids; birthday cakes to celebrate life, homemade cookies from Grandma to reward you for passing your math test. I know, it’s ingrained in us that sugar is good. Well, it certainly hits the pleasure receptors in our bodies to make us feel good; at least temporarily.
However, there is good news! Not all sugars are created equal!
Here is a quick and easy to read line up of some of my favorites, followed by less faves and reasons why.
1. Coconut or Coconut Palm Sugar – my all time favorite. This gem is still relatively unknown in the US, but people in other parts of the world have been using it for centuries. It comes from coconut flower nectar, so it’s not from the actual coconut which many people are allergic to. It’s low glycemic, which means it doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels as much as other non low glycemic foods (making it an acceptable substitute for diabetics on occasion), and also it has micro-nutrients which normal cane sugar can’t boast. If you love brown sugar or maple sugar, this is the one for you. It tastes very similar.
Due to it’s newness on the scene, there aren’t many human studies on it yet, but so far, I give it two thumbs up!
2. Agave Nectar – This just tastes so good to me! This is another fairly low glycemic sweetener from the agave plant, the same plant used to make tequila. Whoohoo! I’ll still take the agave over tequila…just sayin’. However, agave is not a miracle sweetener. Some scientists say due to the processing, it can be as bad as high fructose corn syrup to our bodies. However, I still feel better about eating agave sweetened products versus the HFCS crap, pardon my expression. Agave is usually sustainably harvested and supports an industry I can get behind, rather than the big GMO corn ordeal here in the US. But I digress…
3. Good ol’ fashioned Honey – Honey may not be the lowest glycemic sweetener, but it is great tasting and has many uses. It has anti-viral properties and can even be used to treat airborne allergies.
4. Stevia – not my favorite tasting sugar substitute, but certainly worlds better than most others. In fact, Stevia ranks up there due to its low glycemic attributes. Since there are so many variations of the stevia plant, the tastes vary. From not much different than sugar, to a slight licorice aftertaste. Some brands are highly processed, taking out most of the nutritional benefits. But still, it’s a worthy substitute.
Some other “natural” or better sugar substitutes would be, Sucanat which is minimally processed cane sugar, Pure Maple Syrup-delish but more of a specific taste, Evaporate Cane Juice (or Demarara Sugar) which is made from the sugar cane, not the beets and is slightly less refined than white sugar, and Turbinado Sugar or “Raw” Sugar which is the same as cane juice in that it comes from the sugar cane but it retains more of the impurities that make it a darker color and richer flavor.
A word about artificial sweeteners; BACK AWAY FROM THEM! These are mostly chemicals that can affect your brain the same way sugar does leaving you wanting more and then add to it the chances of headaches, digestive issues, possible tumors, cancer risk…no thanks!
There are many more sugar substitutes I would be happy to chat with you about if you see one that wasn’t covered. I am working on my investigation into Xylitol and Sorbitol soon, so I will let you know of my findings. For now, that is my take on what’s out there in the marketplace. Although I am a certified health coach, I am not a doctor and can’t diagnose any health problems or tell you what you should do for your own body. I just want to pass on my findings and personal opinions.
One last thing to note; all sugar should be consumed in moderation, even natural sugars. Many sweetened products also have added calories and saturated fats, so please don’t take this as a free card to stock up on that agave sweetened ice cream! You get the idea. 🙂
Hope you found this helpful!