When I ask a client to talk about their sugar intake, I will often hear ‘Do you mean sugar in my coffee? Fruit? Pastries’? Why I ask that question is because so many symptoms I see come back to what we eat. And the biggest culprit to sleep disorders, digestive sensitivities, inflammation and mood symptoms is sugar.

Simple sugars or monosaccharides include glucose, fructose, and galactose. Table or granulated sugar is sucrose, a chemical derivative of processing glucose and fructose. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has practically the same ratio of glucose and fructose as table sugar, but they are free floating and absorbed in the intestine faster. Fruit contains fructose and sucrose, and can have the same caloric value as straight table sugar, however fruit sugars are packed less densely, fruit also has an array of nutrients and fiber, which table sugar and HFCS do not.

There is much concern about HFCS and how much of it is in packaged food. For manufacturers, it’s cheap and tastes similar to sucrose (table sugar). The problem is, it’s in everything. Most commonly bread, yoghurt, muesli bars, cereal, maple syrup (psst- maple syrup should only have one ingredient and that’s maple syrup!) – the list is long. All sugar is harmful if ingested in large quantities – it can be extremely difficult to know for sure though how much sugar, and the type of sugar you ingest if you are buying packaged foods. The only way to know for sure is to buy foods with minimum ingredients and always read the label.

By educating clients on what is in the food they consumed, the question of how much and what kind of sugars began to make sense for their symptoms. Ease and convenience are key in our rushed and busy lives, but it’s important to read labels and identify packaged foods that contain a healthier supply of sugar, in a ratio that makes sense. For example, see the 2 labels below.

They are both for snack bars. Would it surprise you to learn that while the top one has more sugar it is lower in carbohydrates? The first ingredient is dates which are high in fructose (or fruit sugar), but it is the only form of sugar and this bar contains protein to balance out the metabolic response of the sweetener. Also, there are only a few and real ingredients. The second bar is lower in sugar but higher in carbohydrates and has no protein. It has 4 types of simple sugars, emulsifiers (lecithin) and of course the ‘Ingredients are only partially genetically engineered’ – WTF?? My point? Read labels. A minimum of ingredients with one type of natural sugar is the way to go.

Bad sweeteners

Word on artificial sweeteners – there is research on artificial (chemical) sweeteners such as aspartame, sorbitol, xylitol, neotame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium and their associated health risks. These are often found in chewing gum and ‘diet’ soft drinks. They are not absorbed as sugars and are thus vacuous energy. They aren’t metabolized thoroughly and can leave a digestive residue with some associated with a higher risk of developing cancer.

Good sweeteners

Word on natural sweeteners – for people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome disorder, sweeteners of any kind are to be ingested minimally.
Maple syrup, coconut sugar, maple sugar, raw unprocessed honey, mashed apples and bananas, agave, naturally squeezed fruit juice and dates are excellent alternatives to processed table sugars and especially artificial sweeteners. While they might have comparable sugar content, natural sweeteners provide a nature induced balance of macronutrients and often other health attributes such as antioxidant, antibacterial, fibrous and carotenoid properties. Stevia is controversial, while it comes from a plant, it is processed from its raw form and has been associated with health concerns. It also has a sharp metallic taste that comes through when used in cooking. Monk fruit is my choice for cooking. If you’ve never cooked with monk fruit it’s wonderful. Also known as lo han guo, it’s a small round fruit native to Southern China. The fruit is processed into small white granules, similar in appearance to caster sugar but with zero glycemic index, zero carbs and zero calories so it’s gut and Paleo friendly, low fodmap and Anti-Inflammatory – making it perfect if you are on a Sensitive or Elimination diet. Monk fruit has the same sweetness as white sugar, so replacing sugar in recipes is easy, using a 1:1 ratio.

Sweetness is the most popular of the 5 basic tastes and for good reason. It’s comforting, it provides energy and releases endorphin hormones that leave us feeling good about the world. But not all sugars are alike, so be sure to read labels and keep it natural when adding sweeteners to your cooking.

For inspiration on recipes using raw and unprocessed sweeteners, see our ERecipe book offerings here.

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