Sugar has definitely become the poster child of all things wrong with our health.
Our overconsumption of the sweet white stuff has shouldered the blame for a rise in diabetes, obesity, attention problems, arthritis, cancer and several other diseases.
So is ALL sugar bad, and what ‘sweet’ alternatives are our best choices?
The following is a list of common sugars and sweeteners, their glycemic index (GI) and other factors to consider when choosing them.
Maltodextrin (150) – With an extremely high glycemic index rating, this sugar is near poison for diabetics. Found in many packaged products.
Glucose (Dextrose) (100) – Very high on the glycemic index and equivalent to white bread.
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Corn syrup (75) – Largely GMO, with little nutrition. HFCS (87) is worse.
Refined table sugar (65) – Largely GMO and stripped of any beneficial nutrients, this sugar has a very acidic effect on the body and causes mineral depletion.
Honey (50-75) – The kind of honey makes a big difference, with raw (unpasteurized) honey being lower on the glycemic scale and containing more nutrients. Processed honey is often no better than table sugar.
Evaporated cane juice (55) – Better than white sugar, but still refined.
Blackstrap molasses (55) – Although higher on the glycemic index, this sugar provides many minerals, including iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc, and as a result is more alkalizing to the body.
Maple syrup (54) – Collected from the sap of maple trees, it is refined and therefore processed. It is more nutritious than refined table sugar, corn syrups and cane juice but still should be used sparingly.
Coconut palm sugar (35) – Acquired from flowers growing on coconut trees, this is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic sweetener that substitutes well for refined sugar. It is very popular among health enthusiasts and can easily be used in baking.
Agave nectar (30) – There has been much controversy around agave, and the jury still seems to be out on its use as a healthy alternative. Use in limited quantities.
Xylitol (7) – A sugar alcohol, xylitol is very low on the glycemic index but should be used sparingly due to it being largely GMO, as well as its history of causing intestinal issues.
Stevia (0) – 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, stevia comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. Since its glycemic index is less than 1, it does not feed candida or cause any of the other problems related to sugar consumption. This makes it ideal for diabetics, those with gastrointestinal problems and anyone interested in reducing their caloric intake. It goes well in tea, smoothies and tart juices like lemon, lime and cranberry.
Artificial Sweeteners (0) (Aspartame, Sucralose) – All artificial sweeteners are toxic, and ironically, the consumption of these sweeteners has shown significant increases in body weight, even when food intake remained the same.
When choosing sweeteners, look to stevia and coconut sugar first for their low GI rating and generous mineral content. In contrast, avoid artificial sweeteners, corn sugars, refined white sugar, maltodextrin and dextrose like the plague, as they are toxic, spike blood sugar and contain little to no nutrients.
Finally, use molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, cane sugar and honey in moderation. Although they do contain beneficial nutrients, they are mostly refined (save raw honey) and are higher on the glycemic index.
Of course, these are just general recommendations, as the state of a person’s intestinal health will largely dictate their acceptable sugar intake. Watch your body’s reaction and adjust accordingly.