October 24, 2007

What's in your sugar bowl?

If you read "Sugar Blues" or just listen to me long enough, you'll know that sugar is essentially poison. And everyone knows that sugar=calories=fat. Sometimes sugar=mood swings or diabetic reactions. Enough said for now--sugar's got to go.

Enter Equal, stage right. Enter Splenda, stage left. Cut to close up of Sweet-n-Low.

The goal (my goal anyway) is to purify our bodies--not make them more complicated with chemicals and processed foodstuffs. Some less refined sugar options are honey and molasses. But these are still gonna give your blood sugar (and moods) a spike...with the inevitable fall.

We want a naturally occuring sweetener that has a low glycemic index (that's a measure of blood glucose levels). There is an herbal solution called Stevia, which is known for it's slightly metallic flavor. It's ok for some things though, so give it a try--it's got 0 calories. But the best sugar alternative I've found is Agave Nectar.

Agave looks a little like honey and they say it's twice as sweet as sugar per teaspoon. When I first tried it, I started off by adding it to drinks. That tasted ok, so then I tried adding it to sauces or glazes instead of sugar. Now I use it for just about anything, even baking. But the real sweet spot (hehe) is that the more I shift my diet towards whole, plant-based foods, the less sweetener I desire, period. The lesson here is, start small. You don't have to throw out your sugar bowl today.


Anna in San Diego said...

I hate to be a wet blanket, but I would still go easy on the agave syrup. It is cooked down agave juice, not a whole food. That isn't much different than corn syrup, chemically speaking.

Agave syrup is also high in fructose, which is why it isn't as highly glycemic as table sugar (which is half glucose and half fructose), but that doesn't mean it is benign. Fructose, beyond the small amounts consumed in *moderate* servings of whole fresh fruit, isn't so great for the body in the quantities found in modern industrial food substances (and a bottle of agave syrup, even from the local "health" food store, *is* industrial).

Fructose is metabolized in the liver, unlike glucose, and it gets converted to organ fat very easily. Glucose and fructose can contribute to harmful forms of glycosylation, which is sort of like caramelized, gummed up cells, which impairs their function. The sugars stick to cells without the proper enzymes, creating AGEs, advanced glycosylation endproducts, or "old" cells. That is what happens in diabetes, and is measured in the hemoglobin A1c test. But in non-diabetics, glycosylation also contributes to "old" cells, it just happens slower.

You can learn more about this here if you want:

Max said...

I love this stuff. I think it tastes better than sugar in drinks...I use it every morning in my coffee. The other great thing is that it's syrup, which makes iced coffee SO much easier.

Michelle said...

@ Anna – That's really good info about agave. I'm not too familiar with the specifics of diabetes, but in general everything in moderation is best. Agave is good as 'training wheels' for getting off sugar for most of us.