Death by Sugar

In Uncategorized on September 9, 2011 at 5:45 AM

Dramatic, eh?

Someone recently asked me on Facebook about agave and whether or not it’s any better than sugar. My response was this, “It is processed – so is sugar. Difference it is lower on the glycemic scale BUT the 3 sugars – sucrose, HFCS, and agave – are almost identical from a health perspective. Natural sweeteners are better – date sugar, fruit, honey, molasses, coconut sugar, etc. Agave is easy for baking, frankly, but feel free to substitute and see what works for you.”

Honestly, I always liked that agave easily mixed into my coffee and it IS lower on the glycemic index than other sweeteners but after going Paleo it’s an item I knew I should probably forego – it’s not a natural sweetener. A really smart article that came out this spring in The New York Times, Is Sugar Toxic, talks about why sugars are just empty calories.

“Refined sugar and H.F.C.S. don’t come with any protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber, and so they either displace other more nutritious elements of our diet or are eaten over and above what we need to sustain our weight, and this is why we get fatter.”

ya ya empty calories, I get it but when you continue reading you’ll see that calories are the least of the problem. This excerpt from the same article is what needs to be read, and reread.

“The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.

In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.”

Ya, that’s why we don’t do sugar on Paleo. That’s why red meat gets a bad rap. That’s why I need to work harder to get rid of all sugars – agave and raw sugar, alike. I’m not there yet though; I need my treats. I bet you do too. You might as well get a few trace nutrients if you’re gonna add the sweet stuff. Here are your best bets, as defined by Mark’s Daily Apple

Raw Honey

Honey consists of dextrose and fructose (broken down from sucrose through honey bee’s digestion) in a nearly 1:1 ratio (with other components such as water, wax, nutrients, etc.). Raw honey has a glycemic index of about 30, but processed honey clocks in around 75. Those who have a harder time digesting fructose can often tolerate honey. Although conventional processing destroys much of honey’s natural benefits, raw honey serves up a (many claim therapeutic) dose of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is boiled and refined sap from maple trees. It has a GI of 54 and is low in free fructose but high in the fructose-glucose disaccharide sucrose. Nutritionally speaking, it contains manganese, iron and calcium.

Palm Sugar/Coconut Sugar

An up and coming (in this country) sweetener is coconut sugar. The sugar is actually made from a variety of palm sources, but the palm and coconut labels are used (albeit mistakenly) interchangeably. It’s largely sucrose-based and registers in the 30s/40s on the GI. The taste is relatively light from what I understand, and the nutritional profile is worth noting.

  1. […] bread “increases blood sugar as much or more than table sugar”? Check out my post on sugar for a quick reference […]

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