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Healthy Habits: Cut Back on Refined Sugars

Which Sugars Are Better For Us?
As far as nutritional benefit to our bodies, all simple sugars are empty calories – about four per gram. As regards their impact upon our bodies, sucrose is the worst. It demands the production of insulin by our pancreas, causes significant fluctuation in blood-sugar levels, and robs nutrients from various stores in our bodies in order to be digested.

The myth of "quick energy" that accompanies refined sugar products such as candy bars and other sweets that are high in sucrose (white sugar) is destroyed by the reality that a temporary "sugar high" from this form of sugar is followed quickly by the "sugar blues."

The following is a list of generally accepted substitutes for sucrose. Although no sweetener is without problems, these seem to have less negative impact upon the body.

  • Fruit juice – Because it is fructose, it causes less of a rise in blood-sugar levels than sucrose. Fructose sugars don't require insulin. They are metabolized in our liver rather than our small intestine, as is sucrose. They are also absorbed more slowly into our bloodstream than sucrose.
  • Date sugar – Ground-up dates. The sugar in dates is predominantly fructose. Maltose – A complex natural sugar that requires some breaking down into simple sugars in our bodies. It has no sucrose in it. Like fructose, maltose is metabolized by enzymes that do not require insulin. No fluctuations in blood-sugar levels are caused by maltose. Amasake (a sweet pudding-like substance made from cultured brown rice), barley malt, and brown rice syrup are examples of maltose.
  • Sucanat – This product is made by squeezing the juice from sugar cane, then evaporating the water through a special process. What's left is a substitute for white refined sugar that contains vitamins, minerals, and trace elements – all of which refined sugar does not.
  • FruitSource – Derived from a mixture of fruit and grains, it contains both simple and complex carbohydrates as well as small amounts of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Amasake – A whole-grain pudding-like sweetener made by adding fermented brown rice to cooked rice.
  • Honey – It rots teeth faster than sucrose,8 and because it is a simple sugar it can cause fluctuations in blood-sugar levels.9 The more fructose is in it, however, the less significant the blood-sugar changes. Different types of honey have different types of sugar, depending upon the crops the bees drew pollen from. For instance, clover honey is 60 percent sucrose, which would tend to cause more significant blood-sugar changes than orange blossom honey, which is 70 percent fructose.10 Use only raw, unfiltered honey, although most honey is heated to some degree during bottling. If you can, buy it from a farmer or roadside stand where less processing is likely to have taken place. The more cloudy it is, the better. And if it crystallizes, that's a sign that it's had less destructive heat applied to it. Honeys produced in your own locale tend to operate in your body as anti-allergens, helping you counteract the effects of local allergy-producing substances.11
  • Maple syrup – It does contain about 65 percent sucrose. Compared to white sugar, however, its negative impact upon blood-sugar levels is less.
  • Unsulfured blackstrap molasses – Molasses is the liquid that remains after sucrose is refined from sugar cane or sugar beets. It has the same energy-exhausting effect on the body as white sugar, although somewhat less intense. It can also contain concentrated amounts of the stuff that was on the sugar cane or beets, like pesticides and environmental toxins. If sulfur was involved in processing out the sucrose, traces of this can remain as well.12 Even with all of this potentially stacked against it, blackstrap molasses is recommended by some as a viable substitute for white sugar. It does contain nutrients (calcium, iron, potassium, and B vitamins) that have been refined out of white sugar. The darker the molasses, the more nutritious, with blackstrap being the best.13


From HEALTHY HABITS: 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health by David J. Frahm as used by arrangement with Jeremy P. Tarcher, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003 by David and Anne Frahm. All rights reserved.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

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