Have you ever heard the saying “Don’t shake hands with the ones who don’t wish you well”? Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about today, folks. It’s the devastating topic we must discuss with ourselves and loved ones; the one we warn our children about having relationship struggles with. It’s the said to be oh-so addictive, Sucrose, or sugar. Table sugar is apparently a tough hit it and quit it kind of addiction. A study on lab animals proves sugar to be addictive, but the same results for lab animals, such as rats, do not always pose the same outcome on humans.
After much research, the main issue with sugar is fructose. Table sugar is half glucose and half fructose. When glucose is metabolized by cells, it’s used as energy. When fructose is metabolized in the liver, it’s not used as energy, but is stored as fat. This is a problem because it can lead to insulin resistance due to extra insulin being released in to the body. As you may know, insulin resistance leads to diabetes, hypertension, and even kidney disease. Fructose also effects Uric acid levels. Elevated uric acid levels can cause a rise in blood pressure, arthritis, kidney stones, and even kidney failure.
Sugar can also cause a negative effect on your thyroid and hormones. Not to mention, sugar is also linked to tooth decay, insomnia, ADD/ADHD, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, constipation, fatty liver, premature aging, and the list goes on and on.
The way we came about sugar dates way back to caveman days. The oh-so delicious sweetener, sucrose, was rare to be found. When it was found, it came from beehives or a berry here and there. We get sugar, today, from sugar beets or sugar cane. Some would argue that just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe. I mean, arsenic is natural, but that isn’t safe, right? Not that I’m placing sugar in the same danger zone as arsenic, but as long as eaten in moderation, like everything else in life, then you won’t suffer from these side effects.
Each day, we Americans typically consume 23 teaspoons a day. The recommended daily allowance is no more than 6-9 teaspoons a day, or 25-37.5 grams. When checking food labels, if the content reads 8 grams of sugar or less, you’re good to go.
Companies are in business to make money. Heck, aren’t we all? Food companies, however, have to be creative when trying to sell a product that’s not organic or all natural. For example, they try to mislead consumers by listing sugar as several different names. Look for the hidden labels and know your sugars. Sugars typically end in -ose. Not always, but majority of the time. There’s a really cool app called ‘Chem Cuisine’ that I love! If you are ever stumped on an ingredient you see on a label, type it in to this app and it gives you the break down of what it is. Know that “low-fat” [dairy] contains 6 tsp of sugar and barbecue sauce and ketchup have more than chocolate syrup. Don’t be fooled by fruit juices either. Fruit juices contain the same amount of sugar as soda and dried fruit has 50% sugar!
Companies that produce artificial sweeteners are very creative with their marketing and advertising. I have a few of the popular ones you may have heard of and my top four healthiest here for you, in no particular order.
- AGAVE NECTAR (BLUE AGAVE): Sweeter than honey with the same look and texture, but should be used in very small amounts. The fructose in Agave is very high, even higher than sugar. Beings it is a bit sweeter, you won’t have to use as much.
- ASPARTAME AKA EQUAL: Although the FDA hasn’t found any connections, Aspartame is said to lead to cancer and overweight.
- HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP: Like table sugar, corn syrup contains fructose and glucose. Only HFCS gets their fructose and glucose from processed corn syrup. You should limit your intake of HFCS because some studies have shown this to lead to obesity.
- HONEY: It is fantastic and is the first on my list of go-to alternatives for sweeteners. Studies with honey have shown that it does not raise blood sugar as quickly when compared to other sweeteners. Honey promotes more of a slow and steady rise, which is healthier for the body. Honey contains amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. When bought locally, honey is said to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. You could also use it for medicinal uses such as for cuts, acne, or other skin issues.
- NEOTAME: This artificial sweetener is new to the game. As it was approved by the FDA in 2002, it’s founded by the same company that makes Aspartame. It’s main use is in puddings and desserts because it ranges up to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. Wowza!
- STEVIA AKA TRUVIA OR PURE VIA: Stevia comes in at number two on my list of artificial sweeteners. It’s a zero calorie, all natural sweetener coming from the leaf of a flowering plant. When purchasing Stevia, be sure to look for an organic brand such as Sweet Leaf because not all stevia has been approved by the FDA and may contain GMO’s. Only the refined ones such as Trivia have been FDA approved.
- SACCHARIN AKA SWEET ‘N LOW: Saccharin, or Sweet ‘N Low, has a bad name to it because of the tests that were done in the lab. Lab rats were developing bladder cancer so, sweet ‘n low was forced to add a warning label. Since not all results on rats are the same for humans, the warning label was later repealed.
- SUCRALOSE AKA SPLENDA: Wonderful alternative for diabetics because the calories per 1 teaspoon are zero. It’s also great to use when baking because it isn’t heat sensitive. However, some studies say it’s bad for the immune system, but other studies do not correlate with their findings.
- Coconut Sugar: My third top sugar alternative I would suggest is coconut sugar. This one is organic and unrefined. It’s a great choice for vegans and is non-gmo. Due to the wonderful flavor, it’s especially good when baking.
- MAPLE SYRUP: Finally my fourth suggestion after extensive research is 100% pure maple syrup. It has a delightful earthy flavor and is beneficial in reducing inflammation and some chronic diseases. When purchasing, go for a Grade B or C that is USDA-certified organic.
Should you choose to quit Sucrose or table sugar, the detox symptoms can be pretty heavy so, beware. Avoiding trigger foods is strongly recommended. For example, if having a starchy food makes you crave something sweet, avoid consuming as many starchy foods. Also, keep fresh fruit prepped and ready on hand so that it’s easy to grab as soon as you’re feeling a craving. Some studies show that in most research, your body triggers a hunger when really you’re just thirsty. Drink a glass of plain or fruit infused water before reaching for that Snickers bar and wait for twenty to thirty minutes to see if your craving is satisfied. Try going two weeks without any sugar at all before introducing an alternative to your diet. Go for one of the four I recommended above (Honey, Stevia, Maple Syrup, or Coconut Sugar) to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Now, don’t cheat yourself too much. If there’s a certain dessert that you’ve been looking forward to devouring all year, like pumpkin pie in the Fall or a delicious ice cream cone in the Summer, treat yourself. Add whichever sugar you choose where it was meant to be, in desserts. Just keep everything in moderation, including the artificial ones.
XOX – C