Sugar: The Substance Of Many Identities

Nearly every food product that comes in a package, box, or carton these days contains some sort of sugar. Sweeteners are in everything, and it’s important to educate ourselves on the different names they go by. A lot of us try and monitor our sugar intake by reading labels because we know that it’s bad for us, and yet we are often not aware of how sugar can be hiding in plain view on ingredient labels. Below is a list of sugar and sweeteners you should be aware of:

Raw Sugars

  • Organic Cane Sugar
  • Organic Beet Sugar
  • Fruit Fructose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose

Refined Sugars

  • White Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Sucrose

Natural Sweeteners

  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Honey
  • Agave Nectar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Stevia
  • Birch Xylitol

Refined/Artificial Sweeteners

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Aspertame
  • Sucralose
  • Acesulfame K
  • Saccharin

There are many more sweeteners than listed above, but it’s a good start. In the 1900’s the average person ingested 40g of sugar a day, mostly from fruit and starches. Today, the average person ingests 100g of sugar, with kids getting nearly twice that on a daily basis. In a year, on average, a person consumes 50 pounds of sugar. That’s 88,750 calories or 25 pounds of fat!

So let’s talk about the different types.

Raw sugars come straight from natural sources and are processed through evaporation. They do not contain harmful chemicals or additives. However, in large amounts, even raw sugars still contribute to weight gain, diabetes, cancer, and other health issues. They should be eaten sparingly and seen as a treat.

Refined sugars were once raw sugars that have been processed in a factory. To make them white, sulfur dioxide is added to beach it. Further in the process, other additives are mixed in to absorb impurities. If you have a sweet tooth, it is better to reach for the raw stuff that has been less processed. Raw sugar typically has 11 kcal per teaspoon, while refined sugars are 16 kcal.

Natural sweeteners are found in nature and are perhaps the best way to enjoy the sweet stuff. For molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, and honey, it’s typically 20 calories per tsp. And while they are still processed as sugars in the body, they come straight from natural sources and are mostly unprocessed. Stevia comes from a plant, and unlike sugar and other sweeteners, it contains no calories. However, some people don’t care for the after-taste, as it tends to linger on the tongue. I typically recommend stevia to my clients who put sugar in their coffee or tea or other small things, but not for baking. It’s my second favorite sugar substitute.

Birch Xylitol is my favorite sugar substitute, and it’s a sugar alcohol that comes from birch trees. No, they don’t cause intoxication. Instead, it has a third of the calories that sugar has, and it is recommended for those with diabetes because it doesn’t mess with blood sugar. I recommend this for baking uses, as it is the same texture and taste as sugar.

As far as artificial sweeteners go, try not to have them at all. The ones I have listed above all have been linked to a myriad of health issues, ranging from cancer, to vision problems, to birth defects. High fructose corn syrup actually tricks our stomach into eating more, as it turns off the stretch receptors that tell our brain to stop eating. It also keeps your body from producing leptin, a chemical that helps your body to regulate fat storage.

So if your sweet tooth is tempting you, be sure to reach for one of the better options. Stay away from artificial sweeteners and refined sugars, limit your raw sugars and natural sweeteners, and try to switch to stevia or xylitol for the best results.

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