If you are like most people, your summer is a time for indulging in ice cream, fruit tarts, cakes, cookies and lots and lots of sugary desserts — full of white sugar. Although white sugar is delicious and makes everything much, much sweeter, it has been touted as a “poison” by some and has been compared to alcohol, cigarettes and crack in terms of an addictive substance. Before we get into better sugar alternatives, here are some reasons why we should limit our white sugar intake.
– It has no nutritional value. Beyond being very sweet, white sugar is known as an empty calorie, it does not contain any nutrients beyond being a carbohydrate. Since it is so refined, containing no nutrients, it actually robs the body of stored vitamins and minerals.
– It suppresses the immune system. Only 1 teaspoon of white sugar can suppress white blood cell function for up to 5 hours! The white blood cells are the body’s main defenders against foreign invaders.
– It interferes with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is needed in the body to boost immunity, build healthy skin and prevent cancer. Sugar interferes with Vitamin C’s function by compromising its transport throughout the body.
– It feeds candida, yeast, parasites and unwanted bacteria. This causes poor digestion, decreased immune function, gas, bloating, constipation and toxins.
– It makes you fat. There has been a ton of research over the years that fat is not always the culprit making you fat, rather, it is sugar. Excess sugar gets stored as fat in the body.
– It spikes blood sugar. Refined, white sugar raises blood sugar really high leading to intense crashes affecting energy levels and hormones.
Now that you know why white sugar needs to go, let’s move on to what sweeteners you can replace it with!
1. Coconut Sugar
This has become popular in the last few years. Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the flower of the coconut palm tree. Water is evaporated from the sap to make coconut sugar, which looks very similarly to brown sugar. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index, meaning it will not raise blood sugar the way white sugar does. It contains nutrients such as zinc, iron, B vitamins and inulin, a fibre that feeds probiotics. Coconut sugar is sweet and can be used 1:1 ratio with white sugar.
Honey looks like liquid gold, it has natural antimicrobial, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The healthfulness of honey depends on the quality and if it is raw or not. Processing honey removes many of the phytonutrients that are still present in raw honey. Raw honey contains enzymes, minerals and vitamins, already making it more nutritious than white sugar. However, honey is very sweet and will raise blood sugar significantly so it’s best to use in minimal amounts.
3. Maple syrup
Maple syrup is Canada’s homegrown sweetener. It is made from the liquid sap and then boiled until the water is evaporated and it becomes a sticky, thick syrup. Maple syrup is rich in manganese and zinc, which are antioxidants that prevent cell damage. Maple syrup is high on the glycemic index, meaning it spikes blood sugar, however, it is more healthful than refined, white sugar.
Molasses is actually the liquid byproduct of refining sugar. It’s a thick, viscous sweetener that pairs well with ginger. Molasses contains iron, copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, selenium and vitamin B6 – so it is quite rich in minerals.
5. Stevia (green)
Stevia is the best alternative to white sugar, however, many people are put off by the taste. It is very, very, very sweet so you only need to use small amounts. Unrefined stevia is calorie free and will not raise blood sugar at all! You can actually grow stevia in your backyard, which will make it hyper-local. If you are purchasing stevia you want to opt for the green powder or crushed stevia leaves. White stevia is processed, so I would recommend avoiding that one.
You don’t have to give up eating sweets in an effort to avoid white sugar. As with most things in life, the key is moderation. Even though these sweeteners are healthier than white sugar, some will still raise blood sugar levels very high. If you are committed to doing a real sugar detox, you will want to avoid all sweeteners, even wholesome ones and stick to natural sweets like green apples and berries.
Tamara Green is co-founder of The Living Kitchen, and a Holistic Nutritionist and Natural Cook. She combines her knowledge of nutrition and passion for cooking good food to work with clients to create lasting changes in their lives.