Back in the days of the colonists, they used refined sugar to sweeten their breakfast porridge. In about 10 years, consumption of refined sugar was up to about four pounds a year. Now the estimates range to about 150 pounds per person. Sugar can be considered addictive because eating small amounts can create the desire for more and when we suddenly quit, we have withdrawal symptoms such as headache, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.
Natural (healthy) sugar which occurs in foods such as grains, beans, vegetables and fruit is linked to all sorts of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber. When cooked, chewed and digested, the natural sugar is broken down into glucose molecules that enter the bloodstream and are evenly burned and used with no detrimental effects. These are the food that are considered “whole” foods because your body does not need any assistance to digest them. Therefore they are not refined.
Refined table sugar (sucrose) extracted from cane or beet sugar requires extra effort, because there are no vitamins, minerals and fiber to work with the sugar, the body has to give up some of its store of minerals and enzymes, which could be better used for other functions. The sugar quickly enters into the blood stream, pushing the blood sugar levels high and then burning quickly, the blood sugar levels drop rapidly, leaving the body tired, fatigued and desiring more of the same.
Most of us either have blood sugar too low (hypoglycemia) or blood sugar too high (diabetes). Both conditions are often related to the overuse of processed sugar. Sustaining proper blood sugar levels can be done by breaking the addictive cycle of eating processed sugar, getting a rush, crashing and then taking in more to gain energy.
We have been given artificial sweeteners, but there are so many either proven to be harmful or potentially harmful or very questionable. This is due to the fact that they are not naturally occurring or in their natural state and so the body isn’t equipped to deal with them. However there are some natural sweeteners that are sweet and tasty alternatives to refined table sugar and artificial sweeteners that we are familiar with.
Agave Nectar is a natural sweetener from the agave cactus, 1.4 times sweeter than refined sugar, but because it is in its natural state it does not cause a sugar rush and hence is less disturbing to the blood sugar level.
Barley Malt from the fermenting bacteria in barley which changes the starch into sugar called maltose. It is a good, healthy sugar substitute in recipes, but it is not nearly as sweet as sugar, so you may have to add up to 50% more into the recipe.
Brown Rice Syrup is the result of grinding, cooking and then mixing enzymes in which change the starches into maltose. With a somewhat butterscotch-like flavor it can be quite delicious and a great enhancement in recipes. However, be aware that you may have to use up to 50% more than the sugar in the recipe and you’ll have to reduce the amount of liquid used.
Date Sugar is not really sugar, it is dates that are slow baked, then ground very finely. Since it is not real sugar, it will not dissolve, so it is not recommended for coffee or tea. It does not make a cooked dish sweet. It can be a direct replacement for sugar on cereal, yogurt or any where you like to sprinkle sugar.
Honey is so old that it has been found in Egyptian tombs. The flavors are varied, depending on the flowers the bees frequent. Some honeys are dark and strong, some are light in color as well as flavor. Raw honey contains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
Maple Syrup from boiling down the sap of the sugar maple tree, with a wonderful flavor most known for use on pancakes, it can be used in recipes for baked goods, cereal and yogurt. Be sure you are buying actual pure Maple Syrup, not maple flavored corn syrup (which is not as healthy).
Molasses essentially the “by product” of refining white cane sugar is delicious and the most nutritious substitute for sugar. Different types of molasses have different types of flavor.
Sucanat is the brand name of a evaporated cane juice product that has been blended with molasses. It is 88% sucrose, with fructose and dextrose and retaining more of the vitamins and minerals of cane sugar.
Stevia from the Amazon Rainforests has been used for centuries by native South Americans. The extract is 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you need a very, very small amount. It does not change blood sugar levels and has no calories. Use the green or brown varieties, the clear or white are highly refined, lacking in nutrition and lead to imbalances.
Enjoy experimenting and trying these delicious varieties of natural sweeteners.
If you would like more assistance in proper nutrition contact us at Bergen County Acupuncture and Wellness to discuss a nutrition regimen that will work for you.