What is the big deal about sugar?
We keep hearing sugar is bad, stop eating sugar, cancer is fed by sugar... All is negative, right? Sugar is almost considered to be equal to cocaine due to its addictive properties.Lets have a closer look to sugar. Where it comes from and why is it so wrong to consume sugar? Types of sugar and which one could be the best option for you?
In fact what we call sugar is those chemical components finishing with –ose . Sucrose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, lactose…. The name changes according to its source, for example if it comes from fruits it is called fructose or if it comes from dairy it is called lactose etc.
Glucose is the smallest molecule that is transported to the cells for energy, and if there is excess glucose it is stored away as fat. Glycemic Index (GI) is created in order to rank the impact of different foods in increasing our blood sugar. If we eat food of which GI’s are lower than 50 we naturally control our blood sugar.
Why are we scared of blood sugar is a complete other topic which I will be covering in my blog, but short list of the problems due to high blood sugar are:
- Risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Risk of cardiovascular disease
- Risk of Kidney disease
- Increase chance for visual problems
- Repeating genital inflammation
- Increase risk for inflammatory diseases
- Damage to nervous system
Complex sugars, chemically names as polysaccharides are broken down into glucose or fructose during digestion.Coming from the fruits gives the image of being innocent to Fructose, however the reality is not quite like that. Yes , the sugar from fruits will not raise our blood sugar immediately but they are metabolized in our liver and converted in to triglycerides. Excess triglycerides also increase insulin resistance and in long terms it ends up with a similar result of excess glucose.
Sugar does not exist in nature in big quantities. Living beings exposed to sugar from fruits and starches if they only live in wild nature. When the sugar started to be extracted from natural foods it became really concentrated. The result is the massive exposure of sugar, which is not really natural. If we only consume sugar in the way it exists in nature we would not talk about the harm of it. Our bodies , especially our brain needs sugar to function. Today's problem is the abuse of sugar : We add sugar even to our salty food to make it more attractive to our taste buds. Our sugar sensors became too high so we are not satisfied with small amounts of it. Make a little test and eat no sugar for a month. When you taste the sugar after that you can hardly stand its strength. Sugar also has addictive properties and makes you feel high .We crave more and more sugar when we get addicted.
Types of Sugar:
Refined sugars: They are chemically processed beet or cane sugars. High in empty calories and have zero nutritional values. White sugar is the biggest one and needs to be avoided totally. Because of their high consumption in the world GMO sugar beets are used. Common brown sugar is also highly processed. But some brown sugars like Rapadura or Panela are least processed and they still have some minerals and enzymes.
Refined Raw Sugars: Least processed where only the surface molasses are washed. Some examples are Muscovado, Turbinado. Since they are less processed they have more minerals in them.
Unrefined Raw Sugars: Evaporated Cane Juice (Sucanat) and Palm Sugar (Coconut sugar) are the two types in this category. Both are minimally processed and very grainy texture with distinctive flavor. Since they are not rich in Sucrose they have lower GI. Especially palm sugar is even lower than cane juice. Sucanat has difficulties to bake with due to its texture and since it is not as sweet as white sugar it cannot be used as a 1/1 replacement.
Molasses: Deep black substance, which is the by-product of cane or beet sugar. It is rich in iron, calcium and magnesium, same calorie value as sugar but contains less glucose than sugar. Iron in molasses is not absorbed well by the body due to the calcium content.
Corn Syrup: High fructose corn syrup has a highly industrialized, chemical fermentation and distillation process. It is the main sweetener used in packed foods like soft drinks, condiments, bread, cookies etc. GMO corn is used to produce this sweetener and it is the major reason behind obesity, diabetes and heart disease in today’s societies.
Agave Syrup: It is the highest fructose-containing sweetener with 92 %. Highly processed to extract the sweet content from the plant. And high fructose is not ideal for long-term health of our liver.
Rice syrup: Rice syrup is a natural sweetener, which is made from cooked brown rice. It is high in GI so not suitable for diabetics.
Maple Syrup: The amber liquid with an earthy sweet taste and made from the sap of maple trees. Ideally it has lower calories and higher concentration of minerals than honey, excellent source of Manganese and Zinc. The grades of Maple syrup do not refer to quality but refers to the taste and color.
Honey: Honey is the mixture of sugars and other compounds; it has some vitamins and minerals depending upon the flowers available to the bees. Most of the honey is pasteurized to sterilize the honey and to improve the shelf life. However this process damages the enzymes in honey. Raw honey is minimally processed and has mild antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It is recommended to sufferers of hay fever, if the raw honey is from the local sources. It lessens the sensitivity because of the exposure to small amounts of pollen impurities in raw honey.
Xylitol, Erythritol, Mannitol and Sorbitol
They exist naturally in plants and extracted from sugars or starches. These substances taste like sugar but are not completely absorbed by the body. They do not increase blood sugar and have fewer calories.
Because they are not absorbed well some of them can ferment in the intestines and cause bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Sugar Free Sweeteners:
It is a South American plant which 30 times sweeter than sugar. It does not spike the blood sugar and good for diabetics. However has after taste and hard to dose it.
Saccharin, Aspartame and Sucralose (Splenda): Completely artificial and chemical substances with no calories and 0 GI . All of them are linked to cancer, digestive problem and chronic diseases. They should be absolutely avoided.
Personally I do not buy white sugar . I prefer to use maple syrup mostly, sometimes honey and rice syrup. If crystal form is needed evaporated cane juice or palm sugar. But whatever your choice is keep in mind you are still dealing with a S W E E T D E V I L ….