Refined sugars are not only inflammatory in nature, but are linked to metabolic diseases as well. Sugar has been shown to cause tooth decay, diabetes, weight gain, and even acne. The most inflammatory sugars are those of a refined nature (white sugar and brown sugar). Their processing depletes any nutritional value while increasing inflammation..
The sugar substitutes are just as bad if not worse. They are not only inflammatory in nature but have been linked to disease in the body. Aspartame is linked to headache, nausea, dizziness, and is thought to precipitate and/or worsen conditions like multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions. Saccharin (otherwise known as Sweet'N Low®) has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
With the health risks of traditionally made sugar it’s nice to know that there are some alternatives out there that are less inflammatory and lower on the glycemic index. Here are 6 of my favorites:
Stevia is a natural sweetener that is derived from the stevia plant. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar yet is negligible on the glycemic index and is calorie free making it a great substitute for diabetics. Many stevia products are available on the market and now there are even naturally flavored version such as chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, and more. For some stevia may be an acquired taste, however recently (2008) the FDA approved rebaudioside-A, a compound extracted from the stevia plant. This has led to the production of better tasting stevia products such as Truvia & Pure-Via.
Sucanat is literally whole cane sugar completely unrefined. It retains it’s molasses which gives it the brown color and it’s distinct taste. Cane juice is extracted and mechanically heated and cooled to form grainy crystals. Sucanat has fewer calories, and a smaller proportion of sucrose, and because it’s unrefined, sucanat retains some nutritional value. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and others. If you are a fan of brown sugar, this is the best alternative.
Turbinado, much like is the unrefined version of cane sugar. It’s processing is very different from sucanat in that the cane juice is extracted, heated, and then turned into crystals. This doesn’t leave much of the molasses intact and therefore the turbinado has a lighter appearance and a milder taste. However, this sugar can also be used in place of brown sugar in recipes and food preparation, and it contains the same nutrient benefits as does the sucanat.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol contained in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables. It is commonly found in chewing gum. While it can give some indigestion to some upon initial consumption, it is considered a healthier sugar. It is lower on the glycemic index which make is preferable for diabetics over regular sugar, and it has been shown to fight cavities.
Agave is a combination of fructose and glucose sugars and is derived from the agave plant. It is made by extracting and purifying the sap of the blue agave plant. This sugar alternative is low on the glycemic index, which makes it better for diabetics, however it is also higher in fructose than the rest of the sugars and thus must be consumed in moderation. High fructose intake is thought to be linked with obesity because of the way the body processes the sugar. As well, high fructose consumption may increase risk for heart disease over time. So enjoy this sugar alternative only in moderation.
Raw Honey to some is considered a super-food as it is packed with vitamins, minerals and healing nutrients. Some specific types of honey, such as clover and orange blossom are a little lower on the glycemic index. However, diabetics must still take care and consume this with moderation because to can spike the blood sugar if overindulged. Also, it is important to read the labels when purchasing honey to be sure the honey is RAW as processed honey is no better than table sugar. It’s processing strips all of its nutrient value and leaves it high up on the glycemic index.
Maple Syrup is a naturally occurring syrup that is an excellent substitute for table sugar. It’s high in mineral content especially manganese and zinc, and can help stabilize cholesterol. However it does have a high glycemic index, so diabetics must use caution to avoid this particular sugar alternative. There are different grades of pure maple syrup (A, B, C) that refer to the level of processing. The higher the grade the less processed the maple syrup is, leaving it with distinct tastes between the three. The most commonly used is grade A.
Conclusion: There are plenty of alternatives to traditional table sugar, however, even healthy sugars and sugar substitutes should be consumed in moderation. Over indulgence in even these “healthy sugars” can lead to any of the inflammatory diseases mentioned earlier in the article.Avoid refined sugars, and products containing high fructose corn syrup. These types of sugars have an addictive property and contribute to weight gain leading to obesity.
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