Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sugar Alternatives

Sugar is our friend. Or is it not? Without it, we can't enjoy birthday cakes, ice cream, chocolate mousse, or something as simple as sweet tea. God did create a fifth of our taste buds to enjoy sweetness, right? But is all sugar "sweet?"

Glycemic Index (GI) indicates how quickly and how much food raises the blood sugar relative to pure glucose consumption. The GI of pure glucose is 100. A high-GI food causes a spike in blood glucose levels and it is linked to diseases like type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer. Most fruits and vegetables have low-GI, while white rice, white bread, and potatoes have high-GI.

So here is a list of sugar alternatives with its GI values:

Refined or semi-refined sugars:
- White Sugar (GI 80)
- Brown Sugar (GI 80)
- Powdered Sugar (GI 80)
- Corn Syrup (GI 75)
- Sucanat (GI 65)
- Raw Sugar (GI 65)
- Agave Syrup (GI 55)

Natural alternatives:
- Date Sugar (GI 70)
- Blackstrap Molasses (GI 55)
- Maple Syrup (GI 54)
- Honey (GI 50)
- Coconut Palm Sugar (GI 35)
- Stevia (GI 0)

Artificial Sweeteners:
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharine (Sweet 'N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)

Which sugar to avoid and which are better alternatives?

Artificial sweeteners are to be avoided at all cost. Aspartame, used in so many "diet" foods is a harmful neurotoxin and disrupts endocrine. Like MSG, it is toxic to the nervous system and can cause weight gain. Other artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and saccharine have been proved to cause digestive problems and immune system dysfunction in laboratory animals.

Refined or semi-refined sugars are also best avoided because they are highly processed at high temperatures using chemicals, leaving no nutritional value for the body. Choose natural sweeteners instead. They generally have lower GI, less processed, and contain trace minerals and vitamins (especially in raw and unpasteurized ones). But remember that although natural sweeteners are better choice, they are still sugar and we cannot indulge in them.

"If you find honey, eat just enough - too much of it, and you will vomit." - Proverbs 25:16

Sugar is present in almost everything we eat - bread, condiments, cooking sauces, flavored drinks, and desserts. Even in my home cooking I used to put white sugar in every dish just because I thought I had to do so as to enhance the flavor. As I began the study about sugar, I realize it is not necessary to always add sugar to all my cooking and I have been cutting down our sugar consumptiona number of ways:

- I try to avoid packaged or processed food.
- No sugar in my soups. I use dried dates, apples, pears, corns, and carrots instead.
- I don't eat as much bread, processed jams or Nutella (this is hard!)
- I use real maple syrup for my french toast and add raisins to my oatmeal.
- I sparingly use blackstrap molasses for home cooking.
- I don't bake as much now (just because I haven't had a chance to look up healthy baking recipes yet), but will bake or make dessert at home for special occasions. I still need my favorite tiramisu-fix from time to time.

I realize I can't completely eliminate sugar from my diet, but I will try to reserve my sweet cravings for special occasions or for when I go on a date with Evan.

Have you ever been on a low-sugar diet? How did you do it and how did it affect your overall health?

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