“Sweeteners: The Do's and Don'ts of Sugar”
If you read this whole thing and only take one idea away from it, I want it to be this: “stressing about eating your favorite treat may be worse than just enjoying the treat itself.” It’s more important to focus on a balanced diet, so when it comes time to enjoy a treat, you can do so knowing you have filled your body with healthy options as well. The real question is, what are the foods you are filling your body with the other 99% of the time?
I love my occasional treats, but its great to be knowledgeable about the ingredients we are consuming and how it can affect our body.
First of all, there is a huge difference in natural sugar found in whole foods vs. processed sugar. Lets start by talking about whole foods that contain natural sugar such as fruits and vegetables. These natural forms of sugar are bound to fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. When we digest these natural sugars the fiber balances the spike in our blood sugar and it provides your cells and body with more sustained energy.
Processed sugars are known to cause inflammation, raise blood pressure, and contribute to the risk of heart disease. These sugars are often in drinks, yogurts, nut butters, and some granola bars. It’s surprising when you are grocery shopping and buying something like an organic nut butter and you get home to see that there is sugar in it. Always read those labels!
Sugars to avoid:
High-fructose corn syrup
Dextrose (or sugars ending in “ose” sucrose, fructose, lactose)
Working with clients and through my own journey, I have observed sugar as being a comfort food and sometimes craved during emotional times. It becomes a way to “make us feel better” and when you look at it like that it almost seems like an addiction. With that good feeling and hit of sugar, it comes with a sugar crash, empty nutrients, and the feeling or emotion most often returns, leaving us with a temporary fix that vanished.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a treat from time to time, but what if there were some sugar alternatives that satisfied the craving, made our foods a bit more nutritious, and were better for our health?
For example, maple syrup and coconut sugar are still sugars, but they have more nutrients like zinc, calcium, potassium, and manganese that processed sugars lack. Although I consider these a “better” version of sugar, they are still best when consumed in moderation.
Sugar (baking) alternatives:
When we think about sugar, or our favorite cookie or pastries, it can bring us a lot of joy! If we have a balanced lifestyle and want the cookie we should have the cookie and not stress about it! Thats right, go ahead and eat that Oreo at a birthday party, and enjoy that kale salad for lunch. Lucky for us there are a lot of brands who are creating products with healthier versions of our favorite sweets, which is a great place to start. Life is about balance and that includes a balanced approach to our diet as well!