Surrender to Sweet Temptation
Along with the cooler days and longer nights of fall comes the season of sweet temptation: Halloween goodies, apple cider, hot chocolate, candy canes and peanut brittle. It is easy to overindulge. That’s why it is important to understand some of the effects sugar has on the body and how to sweeten up without hurting your health.
Not All Sugar is Equal
The truth is that not all sugar is equal – not in nutritional content nor in the way our body processes it. Your body needs glucose to function. This simple sugar literally fuels our cells and is the main source of energy for the brain. However, the sugar we consume on a daily basis in the processed foods we eat and drink is not glucose (also called dextrose on food labels). It is fructose or a fructose/glucose mix.
Fructose is bad for the body because 100% of what you consume is metabolized by the liver instead of being used for energy. Instead, it gets packaged up and stored as fat for later use. The process of metabolizing sugar also produces metabolic waste and puts stress on the body’s liver and pancreas, and creates unhealthy fluctuating blood sugar levels. Excessive sugar also takes an incredible toll on the body’s immune system, making us more susceptible to illness such as winter ailments like colds and flus.
In the last 100 years, our consumption of sugar each year has doubled. One of the driving forces behind this increased consumption is that sugar is now hidden in most of the processed foods we eat from salad dressing to pretzels. Even infant formula has added sugar equal to about one can of soda. We may be cutting out sweets and desserts, but unless we are looking at the food label of everything we put in our mouth, we may still be on a high sugar diet.
So What Should You Eat?
There are many choices for sweetening up your life such as agave, stevia, honey, and molasses. Which one is right for you? First, avoid agave even though it is marketed as a “good” sugar. Agave is actually highly processed and contains 80% fructose with little nutritional value. Raw honey is about 50% fructose, but is a better choice than agave because of its additional nutritional value. Stevia is another good choice because it tends to affect blood sugar little, if at all. However, it is important to get pure stevia from reputable sources. Brands like Truvia, actually mix Stevia with sugar alcohols. And finally, molasses is about 40% fructose. Yet, like raw honey, molasses contains so many additional nutrients, that it is one of the world’s healthiest foods.
As with any sugar, everything needs to be consumed in moderation. Extra sugar of any kind is very damaging to the body.
What About Fruit, It Has Fructose?
Fructose literally means “fruit sugar”. If that is the case, should we avoid eating fruits? The answer is that fruits have many other health benefits that make them essential for good health. They contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, and water. If given a choice between an apple or a candy bar, the apple will benefit your body in a way the candy bar never could. Fruits that have low fructose include: lemons, limes, cranberries, passion fruit, prunes, apricots, dates, cantaloupe and raspberries, among others.
As you head into the holiday season, here are five easy tips to help you sweeten your life without hurting your health
1. Moderate sugar intake, especially during cold and flu season.
2. Look at food labels and avoid things with corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugars, fructose, etc.
3. Consume small amounts of sugars after a balanced meal full of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.
4. Replace regular sugar with substitutes like stevia, molasses, and raw honey.
5. Replace candies and sweets with fresh, organic fruits.