We all know that sugar is bad for us. But what does that even mean?
Table sugar is 50% glucose, 50% fructose.
Every living cell on the planet contains glucose. Our bodies actually produce it. That’s not really the issue with sugar. The problem is the fructose part.
The problem with fructose is that we can’t really metabolise it. A teeny tiny amount is okay, from fruit or in a little snack after exercise. Our body will turn it into glycogen and store it in the liver for later use.
But if we have any more than that teeny tiny bit, our liver gets overloaded. It turns the fructose into fat, leading to all sorts of problems including:
- Fatty liver disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cancer (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3)
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Tooth decay
- Mood swings, anxiety and depression
- Speeds up the ageing process
- Inhibits the immune system
- Hormonal imbalance
- Messes with gut health; promotes bad bacterial growth
- Addiction (research has found that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine!)
- Inhibits the feeling of fullness so you eat more and more and more
If you want to understand more about sugar, here is an awesome essay from a scientist.
So sugar sucks… but we all like a sweet treat sometimes, right? And that can be okay with substitutes, in moderation. Substituting sugar can become a problem when you go into it blind. Years and years ago I was popping Equals sugars in to every cup of tea or coffee, until I realised it has aspartame in it and thats a hell of a lot worse than sugar in the first place. So you can’t just replace sugar with whatever. You kind of need to know what you’re putting in your body.
This is a chart of some substitutes from I Quit Sugar, that looks at how much fructose is actually in the most common sugar replacements. They have some great articles by the way. They recommend using Stevia and rice malt syrup only, as they don’t contain any fructose. I’ve never been a fan of stevia but I use organic rice malt syrup for everything from sweetening turmeric lattes, to baking cookies. Sometimes I use a bit of raw honey or dates, but it’s important to remember the fructose content and only use them in moderation.
Organic Rice Malt Syrup
Rice malt syrup or brown rice syrup is made from brown rice. The rice is fermented and cooked until it becomes a syrup of soluble complex carbohydrates, glucose and maltose. It contains zero fructose. I only use organic rice malt syrup as arsenic and all sorts of toxic chemicals can be found in non-organic rice.
Most, if not all of the honey in grocery stores is processed and becomes no more beneficial than table sugar (not at all). Raw, unfiltered honey however, contains a huge range of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. It also contains about 40% fructose so I use it medicinally and small amounts as a sweetener.
Raw honey has many benefits and uses including:
- Aids weight loss
- Heals burns, cuts, ulcers and wounds
- Acts as a barrier for germs
- Cold and flu (I’ll upload my cough syrup recipe soon)
- Skincare benefits
- Hair remedies and washes
- Helps to remove free radicals from the body
- Helps to regulate insulin and blood sugar
- Easy to digest
Sourcing raw honey locally is beneficial in many ways, including a reduction in pollen allergy symptoms, as the bees collect pollen mainly in the local environment. Of course it also helps your local farmers to keep producing honey, instead of your money going to large corporations. Usually the honey at the shops comes in plastic tubs so you may want to consider buying it in glass and reusing the bottles for refills. We refill our glass bottles at Southern Forests Honey and it is literally the best honey we’ve ever had. They can be found at markets throughout the Southwest. Health food stores also stock raw honey.
Dates are great in raw desert recipes but they contain about 30% fructose, so they’re certainly not that good for you. They aren’t like fresh fruit; they’re dried, so their sugar content increases. I’ve seen ‘healthy’ raw brownie recipes call for 20 odd dates and say they’re sugar free so it’s important to be mindful of what they actually contain. I like to put a date in my peanut butter banana smoothie on the very odd occasion. It gives it a really nice flavour. But I know that if I used 20 in a couple of servings of raw brownies, I would end up eating a lot more. So I try to just stay clear of that sort of thing.
Over-ripe bananas and apple purée make great sugar alternatives too. Again it’s important to use it in moderation, but they’re better for you than sugar and they give recipes a really nice flavour. It’s probably best not to go boiling 10 apples for a caramel slice, but putting some raisins on top of an apple crumble, instead of sprinkling it with sugar, works great. Apple purée goes well with porridge and yoghurt but many baking recipes call for it too. Bananas go well in cookie and muesli slice recipes, but you can mix, match and experiment here too.
Stevia contains no fructose at all, so you can let your freak flag fly. But if you use a heap, it can have a bitter after taste. Its 300 times sweeter than white sugar so you might want to do some experimenting with it; don’t expect to get a recipe right with it on the first go. Buttt it’s totally guilt-free so its worth the stuff around. Some companies use part stevia and like 10 parts additives in their stevia products so be careful with where you buy it and read the label. Health food shops and some bulk food stores stock pure stevia.