Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh Sugar, Sugar! Part 2: Sweet Lies: Investigating Honey, Sugar, Agave, Aspertame and Stevia.

There is so much hype about sweeteners these days it is hard to know just what to believe. I remember two years my 'sucre du jour' was exclusively Sugar in the Raw, I would add it to my coffee thinking it was the less processed choice. I think many of us have done this same thing thinking that Sugar in the Raw was in some way healthier, which in fact we were all just victims of yet another marketing scam. As it turns out, Sugar In The Raw is the SAME THING as refined table sugar just larger sugar granuales with a hint of molasses added for 'rustic RAW coloring'. Fantastic. The same is true about brown sugar, it is simply white refined sugar with a hint of molasses for added color. Fooled again! Grrr...Last year, I was stocking my pantry with and preaching about the wonders of Blue Agave Nectar. I had done my research and thought I had discovered this fantastic product that won't spike my blood sugar, the holy grail of sweeteners. Once again, I later found out, that Agave Nectar is NOT some sacred recipe of ancient indigenous Mexican people that I had once thought, and in fact it was processed and chemically not to far off from the high fructose corn syrup that I avoided like the plague. I had fallen for all of the marketing scams out there. It turns out that I in my quest for the 'sucre du jour' I had turned into the 'sucker du jour'.

And so the quest continues...What about all the all the wonderful things I hear about honey, Stevia, and the no calorie sweeteners? I have never really been a fan of Sweet and Low and NutraSweet our pastel packeted, calorie free sweeteners made of aspertame. Although pacakaged in pleasing colors, their taste is pretty atrocious. Super sweet and metalicy in flavor, I just never gave these guys a chance, for good reason it turns out. You will find aspertame most often the main sweetener in diet soft drinks and diet foods. The problem with aspertame is nearly EVERYTHING. Aspertame is 200 times sweeter the sugar, because sugar wasn't sweet enough on its own apparently? It has had a very controversial reputation with numerous reports connecting aspertame with a long list of serious health problems ranging from:behavior problems, cancers, tinnitus, stomach ulcers, night blindness and migraines.. Aspertame itself is made up of: 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid and 10% methanol (when metabolized turns into wood alcohol).Wait, what was that last one? Wood alcohol! Why on earth would anyone consume this? Yuck!

Then there is honey, our golden delicious all-natural friend. Honey is delightful in just about anything.Although honey is higher in calories (21 calories per teaspoon vs. 15 calories per teaspoon for refined sugar) it is a healthier sugar,(fructose vs. sucrose) one that wouldn't cause my blood sugar to peak and later crash. The one thing that I didn't realize until recently, is that the benefits of honey so highly written about and emphasized are that of RAW HONEY. Conventional honey(store bought) has been pasteurized(heated to 140 degrees+) and filtered to show a pure non cloudy brilliant golden hue. The problem with this is that before the pasteurization process honey WAS healthy, it was considered a LIVE food full of pollen and a source of vitamin B2, vitamin B6, iron and manganese. Sadly our store bought honey that has been pasteurized and is pretty much no better then high fructose corn syrup.

So why is high fructose corn syrup so bad? HFCS is an genetically modified artificial sweetener that has found its way into most to all of our convenience foods. HFCS can be found in crackers, chips, ketchups, bbq sauces, pickles, soups, cereals, cookies and countless other conveinence foods. The problem with HFCS is nearly EVERYTHING. The ad campaign that states that sugar is sugar whether it is derived from beets ( table sugar) or from corn (HFCS) the body processes it the same. This could not be farther from the truth. HFCS is absorbed directly into your liver, releasing enzymes telling your body to start storing fat. HFCS directly overburdens your liver, gall bladder and kidneys which in time can lead to fatty liver or a strain on your liver making it harder to filter out the toxins in your blood opening a door to a myriad of other health implications.This has been shown to elevate your levels of Triglycerides( fat in blood) and LDL ( bad cholesterol) leading to hypertension, heart attack or stroke. HFCS is no joke, it is a poison to your body and should be avoided at all cost. You have a responsibility to your family and your health to not buy products made with HFCS.

What is all the hype about Stevia? Stevia Rebaudiana, is an natural occuring HERB that is related to the sunflower family and has been used for centuries in Paraguay and South America. Most widely used for centuries in South America and most recently in Japan for its health benefits. The leaves are are taken from the Stevia Rebaudiana plant and ground into a fine powder that is 300 times sweeter then sugar. Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates and has zero glycemic index. Stevia is safe to use for those suffering from hyper/hypo glycemia and diabetes.Although I would always consult with a doctor before exclusively switching to Stevia if you are suffering from any of the above conditions. Be forewarned that the indsustry has fabricated lots of Stevia knock offs since the popularity rise. Look for only 100% NATURAL STEVIA with no additional ingredients. Stevia contains powerful nutrients such as: Chromium, Magnesium, Potasium, Zinc and Vitamin B3. Stevia is great in coffee and teas as well as it is great to cook and bake with. Keep in mind that you will need to convert your recipes accordingly due to the sweet factor of stevia.
I will mention a word of caution that Stevia does not taste EXACTLY like sugar, but have an open mind and take a sweet adventure for your health.

My quest for the 'Sucre du jour' is now a perfect well informed combination of 100% Natural Stevia in my morning coffee and raw honey occasionally when needed. REMEMBER: The less sweet tasting things that you incorporate into your diet the less that you will crave them. I always will encourage you to eat whole foods with natural occuring sugars when you get a sweet tooth craving. Here's to knowing what you are eating and being able to determine the sweet lies from the sweet life! Cheers!

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