Sugars and Sugar Substitutes
I think there has been more controversy over sugar than any other substance that I can think of. Is white sugar ok? What about high fructose corn syrup, Splenda, aspartame, sucralose, what’s the real scoop are these bad for me? If so what are the alternatives?
First of all if you are a diabetic or cooking for a diabetic then you will need to know that there is more to a healthy diabetic diet than just removing sugar or lowering your sugar intake. I discuss this further in the chapters on healthy fats, carbohydrates and proteins. For now let’s find out where these different sweeteners come from and how some of them effect our health. Remember as I mentioned in the beginning of this book if I just give you the answers without educating you about the subject you will never have the knowledge to make the correct choices.
For instance our bodies metabolize sugar and high fructose corn syrup much differently. Sugar triggers leptin which helps us feel full and satisfied, high fructose corn syrup does not so our sweet tooth is not satisfied and we crave more sweets; causing us to eat more. An example of how this manifests itself is in modern day sodas. Some of you might remember when manufacturers moved from sugar to high fructose corn syrup and how at first you didn’t like the new taste until you got used to it of course. Well, even though HFCS is much sweeter than sugar they did not cut back on the amount of the sweetener that was used so sodas are actually much sweeter today than they were years ago. This means we are consuming far more of this sweetener which causes us to crave even more sweets. Why did they switch? Because it is cheaper and easy to manufacture.
What about the rest of those I mentioned above such as white sugar, Splenda, sucralose and aspartame. The last three mentioned are actually chemical sweeteners and can be harmful to your health. There are however some really good alternatives that are either ok in moderation or downright good for you, you will learn about them in the next few paragraphs.
First a little history and information about sugar. Did you know that sugaris really an addictive substance because it affects so many body systems and is so highly concentrated? In fact, refined sugar first appeared as a military drug, or medicinal in The War of 1812 it was a light weight energy source for Napoleon’s army. Interestingly, he lost his first battle; guess he didn’t know about the down side of a sugar high! Actually sugar only entered into our food supply at the turn of the last century4 at that time it was not processed like it is today. In fact sugar is not snow white naturally. While granulated white sugar, also called table sugar, may lighten
up from the cooking, centrifuging, and a serious filtration process, some brands may chemically treat their sugar with bleaching agents. That is why vegans do not use white cane sugar (or other refined products) because the filters used for processing may actually be made of bone char.
- Shrunken Thymus Glands
- Enlarged Liver
- Enlarged Kidneys
- Atrophy of Lymph follicles in the Spleen and Thymus
- Increased cecal weight
- Reduced growth rate
- Decreased red blood cell count
- Hyperplasia of the pelvis
- Extension of the pregnancy period
- Aborted pregnancy
Aspartame has been taken off of the market and put back on so many times it’s not funny anymore. Both of these artificial sweeteners are neurotoxins or ingredients that effect brain growth and function. The FDA has received more complaints about adverse reactions to aspartame than any other food ingredient in the agency’s history. Aspartame a/k/a NutraSweet a/k/a Equal breaks down to phenylalanine and aspartic acid in our hot bodies and when heated the methanol in aspartame converts into formaldehyde in our bodies. Formaldehyde is a poison known to damage the immune and nervous system as well as cause genetic damage. Aspartame breaks down the protective coating surrounding neurons in our brain; this causes a break in the blood-brain barrier which allows toxins to move directly into the bloodstream. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar, contains synthetic phenylalanine and aspartic acid. High levels of phenylalanine (synthetic variety) in body fluids can cause brain damage. It has been linked to PKU seizures which occur when the body cannot metabolize the phenylalanine. It has also been discovered that it actually stops the metabolization of fat thereby being counter effective for weight loss.
Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn SyrupYou will find Corn Syrup listed in the ingredients of most every processed food. Manufacturers use this over other sweeteners because it is cheap. It is produced from cornstarch. Corn is actually a grain, not a vegetable, and it is very high in sugar and therefore quite high on the glycemic index. One bushel of corn produces enough corn syrup to sweeten 324 cans of soda! It is now the primary sweetener in sodas, snacks (cookies, crackers), candy, frosting, jams, jellies, salad dressing, ice cream, condiments, and even fruit juice. You’ll see it on most labels, even on things considered health foods like cereal bars and energy bars. But as previously mentioned because it does not trigger leptin in our bodies we do not feel satisfied so we continue to crave more sugar. Now with the concern over GMO’s it is even more of a concern because corn along with soy are the number one crops that contain GMO’s.
1. Prescription for Natural Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC and James F. Balch, M.D.3rd edition also Healthy Healing by Linda Page 11th edition. 2. Ann Louise Gittleman, N.D., M.S., Understanding Salt and Sodium, TOTAL HEALTH, Vol. 22, No. 2 at 42. 3. Id. 4. Healthy Healing by Linda Page 11th edition.
Organic sugar – is darker than traditional white sugar and does include some trace minerals because it is not filtered. It has a more robust flavor. Organic sugar is grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. This is important since sugar is a concentrate; therefore conventional sugar also concentrates the chemicals and pesticides. Organic sugar is produced using renewable energy sources and rotating crops with attention to the environment. Sugar cane is cut, milled, then crushed, purified, and crystallized. Luckily, we have organic options for most forms of sugar including Powdered Sugar, Brown Sugar, and Table Sugar. While organic sugar is a better option than conventional sugar, even organic sugar is not a healthy food and has the same issues with increasing our insulin levels as regular sugar. Sugar has been linked to: Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, headaches and candida (yeast infections). Sugar suppresses our immune system and excessive amounts actually feed cancer cells and candida creating an acid environment in our body where disease can thrive. Recent studies have shown that the excessive consumption of sugar today may even be the reason behind the increase in fatty liver disease. (Watch the movie “Sugar Coated” when you can it’s an eye opener) So please eat sugar in moderation because even though we need some sugar we really don’t need more than one serving a day (women 6 teaspoons and men 9 teaspoons).
Agave – also called Agave Syrup, is a relatively new sweetener, developed in the 1990s. It is naturally “tapped” like maple syrup. It comes from the Agave cactus, native to Mexico, and best known for its use in making tequila. It is similar in consistency to honey but pours more easily. It dissolves nicely in liquid. It is 10% glucose and 90% fructose, but this is fructose in its natural form (unlike high fructose corn syrup). It is absorbed more slowly by the body and is therefore lower on the glycemic index, eliminating the highs and lows of regular sugar. It has a slight but pleasant flavor; the lighter varieties have less than the darker varieties. It contains minerals like Iron, Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium.
Most all of the Agave you will find is organic, natural, unrefined, economical, raw, and kosher. Like honey, it is sweeter than sugar so you need less of it. Use it to flavor cold drinks like lemonade and iced tea instead of sugar. You can even use it in your coffee or tea. Use it in vinaigrettes, on cereal, or as a glaze for fish or poultry. Use it in place of sugar in your homemade ice cream. You can use it anywhere you’d use honey, replace it in equal amounts. You can also use it in places you’d use maple syrup like on pancakes or in desserts. Use 3/4 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar in a recipe. Like honey, you must also reduce the liquids in a recipe by 1/3 when you are substituting it for sugar. It also helps to reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees if baking with it. Baked goods come out moist and smooth with Agave but tend to brown more easily.
**An important thing to note about Agave is that it is processed by the liver. This means it is not the choice for everyday constant use. It is an alternative and like sugar should be used in moderation.
Sucanat (which stands for Sugar Cane Natural), is a whole cane sugar. It’s made by simply crushing freshly cut sugar cane, extracting the juice and heating it in a large vat. Once the juice is reduced to a rich, dark syrup, it is hand-paddled. Hand paddling cools and dries the syrup, creating the dry porous granules we call Sucanat. Nothing is added and nothing is taken out! Wholesome Sweeteners is the manufacturer and brand name for this which is found in health food stores.
Sorbitol and Mannitol are extracted from corn (mannitol is also obtained from seaweed). I want you to know about them because you will see them in some sugar free foods but because they can come from corn they can be a GMO food.