Did you know that the typical American ingests 32 teaspoons of sugar on a daily basis and that this is equivalent to 126 grams, according to a study quoted in Euromonitor? And the sad reality is that according to government guidelines, we all should limit our intake of sugar to only 12 teaspoons a day based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This may sound like an easy endeavor, however, sugar can hide “in plain sight” in many different foods, drinks, and condiments.
As a result, all of this excess sugar is leading to many serious health issues such as Type II diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.2 In addition, sugar can also cause high cholesterol and high triglycerides as well as non-alcoholic fatty liver. More specifically, evidence is beginning to accumulate which proves that it is actually sugar, and not saturated fat as we have been led to believe, that is the leading cause of heart disease due to the harmful effects of fructose on the body’s metabolism. On top of this, evidence shows that increases in triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and stomach fat can happen in as little as ten weeks due to large amounts of fructose.
The good news is that certain types of sugars are not as harmful for the body as others. Thus, this article will explore some of the best and worst types of sugars available on the market today.
1. Natural Sugar
You should try to choose natural sugar as opposed to sugar that has been added to foods, drinks, and beverages. Healthier choices such as organic nuts, fruits, beans, and vegetables are the best way to go. These whole foods which contain natural sugars also come power-packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and natural fiber. The fiber helps to slow down the absorption rate of sugar which in turn helps to regulate your blood glucose levels. So, without a doubt, natural sugar found in wholesome foods is the best sugar that you can ingest.
2. Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut Palm Sugar comes from the sap of a coconut tree, and it tastes a lot like brown sugar. It is regarded as a good choice for diabetics because it has a lower glycemic index (GI) when compared to sugar alternatives. The GI measures how a food raises your blood sugar when compared to a typical glucose food such as white bread. Although it is okay for people with blood sugar issues to use Coconut Palm Sugar, it should be treated the same as typical sugar since it provides the same number of carbohydrates and calories. Per teaspoon, it has 4 grams of carbs and 15 calories. Another important consideration is that food manufacturers will often combine Coconut Palm Sugar with detrimental ingredients such as cane sugar which can be very harmful to your body. So, you should read all nutritional labels and ingredient lists very carefully. Coconut is know for its great versatility and there are many uses of its different parts. (also check out our article on 8 parts of a coconut that people use)
According to Donna Gates, (who is the author of the Body Ecology Diet), stevia is the safest sweetener available.
All organic stevia is taken from the actual leaves of the stevia plant, which is often found in Brazil and Peru. Stevia has no calories and the main shortcoming is that it is not a good alternative to use in baking. However, you need to beware of certain products such as Truvia, which is partly made from Stevia and could also be partly made from crops that are genetically engineered. In fact, Truvia is produced by an industrial food producer known as Cargill which markets a lot of products which are not healthy. Even Crystal Light Pure is sweetened with Truvia. When you see a product that has “natural flavors”, you have to wonder what the ingredients actually consist of. However, the good news is that the organic form of stevia has no ill effects on blood glucose and can actually help your body more easily convert sugar into energy.
Sweeteners such as sugar alcohols, which include erythritol, xylitol, and sorbitol, are made through a fermentation process involving sugar cane or corn. They have fewer calories than honey or pure sugar but have more calories than stevia. According to Christine Gerbstadt, MD, MPH, RD, who is an author and nutritional consultant of the Doctor’s Detox Diet: The Ultimate Weight Loss Prescription, sugar alcohols help prevent cavities. She recommends that you choose versions which are organic or find ones that are not made from corn. She also cautions that you should not use too much of them or they can cause stomach distress.
II. Worst Types of Sugars:
1. Agave Nectar
This was once considered to be healthy, but it actually contains a high amount of fructose which can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. In fact, it has even more fructose than the amount found in high fructose corn syrup. This can increase your risk of developing metabolic disease since it causes problems with the insulin levels of your body.
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from corn syrup, which is manufactured from corn. It is used to sweeten soft drinks and processed foods in the United States. The research indicates that it is just as bad for you as traditional sugar. The main reason why sweeteners that are sugar-based are not healthy is because of the high dose of fructose. When the liver becomes flooded with too much fructose, it turns it into fat. The extra fat can then cause fatty liver. In addition, excessive amounts of fructose have also been linked to Type 2 Diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
3. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose get in the way of stomach bacteria and can cause diabetes and obesity based on a 2014 study published in the Nature journal. In addition, consuming artificial sweeteners for a long period of time can cause stomach obesity and weight gain.10 More specifically, here are some particular details regarding each substance:
Saccharin is found in products such as Sweet N’ Low, and was found to be deadly to rats in the early 1970’s. In fact, the rodents were much more likely to get cancer from saccharin as opposed to the rats that did not ingest it. In addition, it is also very bad for humans because it causes cancer, inflammation, heart disease, chronic disease, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances. Likewise, the Center for Science believes saccharin to be so unsafe for human consumption that it has been placed on the avoidance list when it comes to sweeteners.
Aspartame is found in NutraSweet and Equal and is present in 6,000 foods including sugarless gum, sodas, and cereals. According to the Neurology journal, some people have headaches because of aspartame. In addition, animal studies show a direct link to contracting cancer. Aspartame can even cause death in people with Phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare condition in which the body can’t break down phenylalanine, which is a main component of aspartame. The substance can also cause strokes and heart attacks. It is found in many diet sodas and can be linked to 75% of food reactions based on reports from the FDA.
Sucralose, which is also known as Splenda, can be responsible for changing sugar levels and releasing poisonous compounds while baking foods. It is also attributed with heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and obesity.
According to Brian St. Pierre, R.D., who is a nutrition and fitness coach of Precision Nutrition, whether you are talking about table sugar, coconut sugar, or other sweeteners, they all still deliver sugar to the body and can cause damage when used excessively. So, he suggests to keep your sugar intake in moderation, eat it very slowly, and keep your levels in the 5-10 percent of you daily caloric intake range. In addition, the American Heart Association suggests the following tips to help cut back on the amount of sugar you eat:
• Don’t add as much sugar as you normally do to pancakes, drinks, cereal, and other foods.
• Don’t drink as many pre-sweetened beverages.
• Read food labels and choose items that contain the smallest amounts of sugars.
• Use one-third of the regular amount of sugar you typically use when baking cakes.
• Use spices or extracts such as vanilla, cinnamon, almond, or ginger in place of sugar.
• Use fruit on oatmeal or cereal instead of sugar.
Making wise choices in regard to what you eat can dramatically affect you physically, mentally, and socially. You should try to stay with natural sugars and cut back on all of the processed sugar that is added during cooking, manufacturing, and at the dinner table. Processed sugars contain empty calories without any fiber or nutrients. So, there is no real nutritional value to be gained from eating these types of foods.