Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Getting The Most Out Of Your Food: Part 4 (Can Sugar be Healthy?)

Can any sugar be healthy for you? I just want you all to know that I have a sweet tooth. No, I take that back, I have sweet teeth. I love sugar! When I first started this journey to eating healthier, I was afraid I'd have to give up my sweets. Wasn't going to happen! I can tell you I don't eat any less sugar than I did 4 years ago, but I do eat different types of sugar. I believe sugar can be eaten in moderation and in its most natural state, in other words, unrefined.

 Nobody in our family has had a cavity since we switched to eating unrefined sugar in our home. Before we switched our diet, we were getting cavities about once a year. Does this mean we don't EVER eat refined sugar? No, when we go other places, we eat and enjoy it as a treat. I figure that if I don't keep it in my home where we eat 95% of the time, it won't kill us to enjoy special treats when we go to others houses or out to eat now and again.

I want to explain the Glycemic Index very briefly because I will be referring to it throughout this post. It is numerical index that ranks carbohydrates on their rate of how quickly they convert to glucose in the body. The higher the number, the more quickly the carbohydrates break down thus causing a spike in blood sugar. Not good for your body. This is what causes hyper activity in children and taxes our adrenal glands. For more info:

I'm going to start with why refined sugars (white sugar, corn syrup) are bad for you. I know this is kind of depressing, but keep reading. It gets better!

*Like a drug -> been stripped to pure carbohydrate form
*Lowers immune system
*Body must borrow nutrients from your body (teeth and bones) in order to metabolize refined sugar. Enamel on teeth is affected.
*Body becomes more acid: Can result in arthritis, cancer, gout, gall stones and even yeast infections
*Increased body waste accumulation:
->Degenerating brain and nervous system because your brain chemistry is affected by sugar.
à Can cause high blood pressure: Too much sugar can thicken the blood, heart has to pump harder.
è    The little capillaries don’t get enough blood to them, which can also cause gum disease and cavities. 

What about fake sweeteners (Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, etc)?
 They can cause damage to the liver. When heated, they turn to formaldehyde in the body. 

What about Brown sugar? It is completely refined sugar with a little bit of molasses thrown back in.

Note: If you are going to use refined sugar, be sure to add plenty of protein and fiber (nuts, whole grains, eggs) to help counteract the affects of the sugar when your body tries to metabolize it.

But there is hope! Lets talk about Healthy Sugars: 

*Sucanat or Rapadura (pictured above) – unrefined dehydrated juice from sugar cane stalks (contains proteins, vitamins and fiber) –high on the glycemic index – fairly inexpensive
*Turbinado (sugar in the raw) – more refined, a lot of the good stuff (molasses) removed, but still better than pure white sugar. High on the glycemic index. Can be substituted straight across for white or brown sugar in recipes.
*Honey (pure) – full of good vitamins and minerals, especially when it is eaten raw. A good local raw honey is said to help with allergies. High on the glycemic index. Usually use a little less when substituting for white sugar. Be careful about buying it in the store because companies are adding corn syrup to honey to make it stretch and make honey less expensive.
*Maple syrup – Grade B is the least refined. Has lots of a good stuff in it. High on glycemic index. Expensive. Can get it at Costco for a pretty good price, I'm told.
*Slim Sweet – sugar from the Lo Han fruit – all natural – very low on the glycemic index. No weird after taste. Expensive, but doesn’t take much. No adverse affects on the teeth, so I use it in my tooth soap recipe.
*Stevia – all natural, low on the glycemic index, can have strong after taste. SweetLeaf isn’t too bad.
*Xylitol – Sugar alcohols, has documented dental benefits, medium on the glycemic index. Can be substituted one to one in recipes calling for sugar.
*Agave syrup – Extracted like corn syrup, so it is super-refined, however, unlike corn syrup, it is low on the glycemic index and if you get USDA certified organic, it shouldn’t be genetically modified. Tastes very similar to corn syrup and can be used in place of it in any recipe.
*Sugars from fruit are good, just avoid things sweetened with concentrated fruit juice. 

There are other natural sugars out there, but these are the ones I'm most familiar with. Between these options, there just about isn't anything you couldn't use an unrefined sugar for. 

I hope I've given hope to those of you out there who have sweet teeth like mine! Check out the labels section on my sidebar for healthy dessert recipes. I make them all with unrefined sugar. I'll be posting on fats next, so continue to stay tuned...

Happy Eating,


RaD said...

Yep, sugar is at the top of my "naughty" list. But I'm also (sort of) starting to learn that if it doesn't really sound good at the time it's available don't eat it. In other words, I'm trying not to eat things with sugar in them just because they are sitting there but rather wait until I really want it, then I'll enjoy it more. It's really cut down on how much I eat. Not as much as I'd like, but it's helped.

Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

Good job on all this info! I can't wait to use it at Mom's Morning Out.

Camille said...

Oh, I have a terrible sweet tooth! Thanks for taking the time spell this all out Jackie. You are a blessing. :)


Jenn said...

Yeah, this is where I fail the most. I still use refined sugar. The prices on unrefined are so steep around here. I do have a good source for honey, though and I am using that more and more.


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