After almost 2 years now of blogging all things health & fitness – this Sugar blog has been the ‘most clicked’…so I wanted to re-post it with an editors note: There is now even more scientific evidence regarding the adverse effects of sugar on the human body (from the Australian National University, relating sugar and brain shrinkage, for example). I seem to be aware of more and more people trying to cut sugar out of their diets and this can only be a good thing. But it’s not easy, everytime I go into practically any shop – all I see is Sugar – everywhere, it’s like it taking over the world! Reading the back of ingredients lists you can see how much sugar is in nearly everything – but you CAN make a difference, always check labels, make informed choices and search out low or no sugar products. Also there are Sugar free publications, like Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ cookbook – make a difference to your health and fitness – and quit today!…
Sweet, sweet sugar – we love it right? We also know it’s bad for us, right? Yet we continue to use it…right?
Lets face it folks, sugar makes things taste good, that’s why we have it in so many of the things we eat. If we omit it from say our cakes…well.. we probably would be wasting our time making them coz they wouldn’t get eaten! Most of us enjoyed having sweets as children and continue to enjoy them as adults, sometimes to our detriment.
We have huge problems nowadays with diabetes and obesity, affecting both young and old – stemming from poor diet and lack of exercise. The diet part is largely to our SUGAR addiction. So what can we do? It would be easy to say just cut out sugar from your diet but that just ain’t gonna happen (for most people, if you’re diagnosed with diabetes, chances are – I hope – you would do this!).
Well there are alternatives, but first lets look at how sugars are produced…
RAW sugar… the natural sugar cane (see above photo) is pressed and mixed with lime, this liquid is then reduced through evaporation producing ‘crystals’. A centrifuge is then used to separate these crystals. Finally they are left to dry, the resulting brown colour is due to the presence of molasses.
WHITE sugar… is manufactured as above but sulphur dioxide is used to ‘bleach’ the crystals and then chemicals like phosphorus acid, calcium hydroxide or carbon dioxide are introduced to absorb or trp the impurities ( like soil, bacteria, mould). It is then filtered through carbon to remove the molasses, and then left to dry.
BROWN sugar – you would think is the white sugar with the molasses left in right? – Wrong! It’s made the same as white sugar, except the molasses is put back in and it is then dried again (- the various colours of brown sugar you see in the shops will depend on the amount of molasses syrup put back in).
Another difference is that white sugar has absolutely no amount of nutritional value whatsoever, raw sugar has trace minerals and nutrients present.
BUT, if you are concerned with your weight and are either trying to drop a size or to, sugar is not the way to go (except of course the odd treat, we are human after all!). So, reality check, we may still need to use it – what do we do? There are alternatives. In the past people have turned to alternative sweeteners e.g Splenda or Aspartame – these are TOXIC and not good for you, and because of this they need their own blog post!
If you DO need to use sugar, try a natural alternative, like Stevia or Xylitol. The good thing about these is that they do not go through the same processing as regular sugar AND they have less than half the calories, great if you are watching your weight.
As is usually the case, these have also been controversial, largely due to the sugar industry being terrified of losing their market, and actually being successful in having it banned in the US (until recently). It’s amazing how the FDA (Foods & Drug Administration) can APPROVE cigarettes and known carcinogens like aspartame, yet ban Stevia which has been used as a sweetener for literally hundreds of years (in South America where it originated) and for decades in Japan – with NO known side affects!!). Again however, there are different versions of these on the market. Some will be more processed than the others, as with everything I say READ the ingredients on everything you buy to make sure. You can buy natural unprocessed green powdered Stevia, (although apparently the white powdered Stevia is achieved through adding Ethanol which is then evaporated and so no longer present).
So, raw is better than white or brown (BUT…it is still processed), so natural alternatives like Stevia can be a good choice, AVOID artificial sweeteners. However, if you’re on a diet ALWAYS check the sugar content of your food, items will often say 99% Fat Free, yet have over 25g of sugar per serve – even most of the meal replacement products… except ISOWHEY which does NOT, it has on average between 0.9 and 1.3 g per serve!!
Try & use sugar as an occasional treat, not part of your lifestyle!