Sugar has been repeatedly demonized by some health experts as if it were the monolithic cause of insulin resistance and obesity. There’s always something wrong with generalizations such as this as it is an unfair act to lynch the good with the bad. Not all sugars are evil, the same way that not all saturated fats are bad.
If we were never never meant to eat sweet foods then our tongue should have been devoid of taste receptors for sweetness. Sugar consumption (depending on the type and amount consumed) isn’t the only dietary factor to consider in determining the cause of diseases such as diabetes. A diet high in fat can cause hyperglycemia. In addition to fat, dairy has also been implicated in the development of diabetes.
IT’S THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY THAT MATTER
The real problem is ingesting large amounts of the wrong kind of sugar. The average American consumes a whopping 22 teaspoons of sugar a day in the form of refined sugar. This wouldn’t be a scary amount if regular table sugar can make people slim and smart. Unfortunately it does just the opposite.
The best source of whole sugar will always be fresh fruit. Fruits are rich in water, which dilutes the sugar. They are also high in fiber, which slows down the release of fructose in the bloodstream. Fresh fruit is also loaded with nutrients that are essential to health and healing.
THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIC CANE SUGAR
When it comes to added sugars, which ones are okay?
In terms of availability, versatility, convenience, texture, price, eco-friendliness, and nutrition the best substitute for the ubiquitous white sugar is perhaps organic cane sugar. Organic cane sugar is unrefined sugar minus the cancer-causing and environmentally damaging pesticides present in conventionally grown sugarcane. Compared to white sugar, organic cane sugar has the full-bodied taste of sugarcane and is much less processed, retaining a lot of the nutrients present in cane juice. Unrefined cane sugar contains 17 amino acids, 11 minerals, and 6 vitamins, including antioxidants that may help reverse oxidative damage. It is made up of sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Table sugar is just sucrose and calories, plus traces of chemicals utilized in the refining process such as lime, sulphur dioxide, and phosphoric acid. Organic cane sugar is not like brown sugar, which is white sugar with molasses thrown back in.
The light color of organic cane sugar is comparable to turbinado or “raw” sugar, a sign that it is less processed compared to other wholesome sweeteners such as muscovado and molasses. The closer the color of the sweetener to fresh sugarcane juice the better.
Even good sugars should be consumed within healthy limits. While organic cane sugar is much better than white and brown sugar it would be a very prudent move to consume it in conservative amounts. The American Heart Association recommends that men do not exceed their daily limit of 9 teaspoons (about 150 calories) of extrinsic sugar. Women on the other hand should not consume more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of added sugar a day.
BAD SUGARS ARE DISEASE MAGNETS
The following sweeteners, ironically and figuratively, leave a bad taste in the mouth with all their ill effects on health and quality of life.
White sugar or table sugar is made by stripping the nutrients and color of the sugarcane plant through a several-step refining process.Think of it as the emaciated offspring of sugarcane. It offers no substantial health benefits because all the wholesome stuff has been thrown out during its production.
Table sugar increases type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease risks. High intake of refined white sugar can also lead to the following conditions:
- tooth decay
- pancreatic damage
- multiple sclerosis
- vision problems
- nutritional deficiencies
- kidney problems
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
High fructose corn syrup is perhaps neck-and-neck with refined white sugar, as both are notorious for being empty calories, or calories that do not confer any nutritional benefit to the consumer. HCFS has been linked to hypertension, high uric acid levels, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. We’ve written a lot about HFCS. Read more about it here and here.
Refined white sugar and HCFS are the top 2 empty-calorie offenders. But there are others. To learn about them – including those that are being promoted by some weight loss advocates in spite of actual consumer complaints on their negative side effects – along with some healthy alternatives, come back soon for Part 2!