Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sugar (said in the Edgar accent from Men in Black II)

Please watch this little scene!  I always think of it when I think of the word sugar!   It always makes me laugh:

Sugar is bad. Sugar is evil... etc... Let's just talk sugar here, and the things that make life sweet.  I am personally blessed with liking coffee with a splash of milk or a non-fat cafe au lait--both no sugar... in fact, aside from the 1 (or 2) Starbucks Peppermint Mocha's to help kick off the Christmas season, I really prefer coffee plain and unsweet--I hate the after taste and the feeling after drinking it sweetened. 

I do however, have a sweet tooth.  I am not talking hard candies or Sweet-tarts here, I mean rich, dark chocolaty treats or pumpkin pie... or peanut butter cups... (but now with whole, organic ingredients of course!).  Despite feeling crappy and low after eating these kinds of sweets, my taste buds are in heaven and can't resist seconds!  Sugar is a drug, an addictive drug.  I wish I could break the habit.  The worst is when you do really well and not eat white sugar stuff... and then there is just this one time you will take just one bite---downhill... I mean, DOWNHILL from there!  Aside from making you high one moment and then low the next, consider that white sugar is highly processed sugar cane, stripped from all its natural minerals and vitamins.  Your body goes crazy when you eat it, trying to metabolize it.  I know, I always get that feeling after eating a yummy cookie, but I hate that post-pardom feeling. :)  I've read it is not good for your immune system either--I've been telling my husband that for years and his 20 colds a year have dropped to almost none once he cut back (ok, maybe not 20, but he had them all the time!). Anyway, we also can't ignore the fact that white sugar is not good for the rolls... I mean love-handle rolls  :).

While on this topic on white sugar, we all know that high fructose corn syrup is bad for you, too.  I am not sure if you are familiar with GMO's (genetically modified organisms), but yep, you guessed it.  High fructose corn syrup is "GMO'd".  Also, according to the research found in the The Kind Diet, high fructose corn syrup is thought to contribute to insulin resistance, making people who eat it in their foods, obese.  Yuck. Avoid it!

Fake Sweeteners
I have been exploring for the past few years sugar substitutes--what is good, what is bad, what is healthy, what is chemically-detrimental...  One thing is for sure... aspartame, nutrasweet, pink, blue, yellow-sucralose (whatever)...all of them are scary.  Yeah, maybe once, or twice, or thrice--I did give into the still sweet-but-sugar-free tempations, but regretful every time!!! First of all, who wants to drink something like a sugar-free hot chocolate that tastes like cough medicine?  And let's just talk about these guys for a second.  They are man-made in a lab!  How can the body, your body, take that?  Apparently they were not even intentioned to be a sweetener.  There have been claims that these guys can cause cancer, though there may not be evidence, yet.  It just makes you ponder on why there is such a huge epidemic on cancers, autism and others out there.  We are what we eat... consider enviromental, food factor people! I think we  have come down a scary road and need to acknowledge what God intended us to eat.  Natural, whole foods... not a cell here and a plastic molecule there... boom, bam, here is your pink packet sugar... I'm sure it doesn't happen that way... but I picture it that way! :)

The exception:  Then there is the Stevia Leaf sweetener, which is a natural sweetener from a the stevia plant that naturally has no calories or carbs.  I would think it is a better alternative than artificial sweeteners for people, but it seems that it just hasn't gotten enough attention until recently.  Stevia hasn't really been give much support from the FDA as a sweetener, but as a supplement--though some people think it is a lobbying/money issue in DC from the "bad fake sugar people" (Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health). I personally am not down with the taste of Stevia, but I do offer it to guests if they are looking for that  "fake sugar" option in their coffee or tea.  I cannot, in good conscience, offer pink-blue-yellow packets to my friends or family or even my worst enemy!  Just go for the green ones! 

Liquid Alternatives
I am so down with these! 
First of all, there is honey.  Now, the best kind of honey I have heard (from a Bee-keeper friend), is local honey.  In fact, there is a medicinal aspect to local honey--if you are in the habit of consuming local honey, it can help in minimizing your allergies.  Isn't that cool?  Also, we can't forget those nights we were sick and coughing and mom made you eat a teaspoon of honey to just straight-up swallow... or even better, hot water/tea with honey and lemon.  The only downside to honey is the fact that its GI levels are not too far from white sugar... so remember, moderation!

Agave Syrup
This is made from the agave nectar plant.  Actually, on the bottle of Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave Nectar Syrup there is a claim that it is has a low GI.  It is about half the amount lower than honey!  This means that it doesn't make your blood sugar and insulin go crazy.  Your body can metabolize it all better.  I have been really using this sweetener in our household.  I have made pumpkin bread, cookies, peanut butter and agave sandwiches... we have used it as a topping on our homemade pancakes... etc.  You can much pretty find it in health food stores and more than likely in your grocery's organic/natural foods section.  If not, be resourceful and look for it online!  If you live here in Lynchburg, I have gotten agave at Kroger and the Health Nut.  I have seen it at Fresh Air as well.

Brown Rice Syrup
I must admit, this one is new for me.  It is not as sweet at Agave, so you would need a little more in your recipes.  Brown rice syrup is made from.... you guessed it, brown rice!  How natural can we get here people? :)  Like agave, it has a lower GI, so it is just such a great alternative.  I made some Brown Rice Crispy Treats (recipe on blog) with brown rice syrup... so yummy and perfect in meeting your sweet craving without being too sweet.

There are other recommended, safe and natural sweeteners out there that you should explore.  I am on that journey and I encourage you to do the same.  Keep your eye out for barley malt, molasses, pure maple syrup as those that are better alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners.  Keep in mind that these liquid alernatives are not calorie free, but way better for you.  Experiment and try them in your next cake or muffin recipe... and pass it on!

PS.  Need help in subbing with these liquid sweeteners... check this site out for help:


  1. Carol, look up Whey Low. My dad is diabetic and can use this natural and healthy sweetener that literally tastes like sugar without the calories or increase in sugar levels. It's made from whey and fruit sugars.

    I have literally made cinnamon rolls with the whey low sugars and nobody could tell the difference. In fact, they all said that they were the best cinnamon rolls they had ever had. Whey Low makes a granulated sugar, brown sugar and a powdered sugar. Thos cinnamon rolls had both the granulated and powdered sugar in them.

    I use stevia too. LOVE it! I prefer that in my tea over the whey low but love the whey low for cooking.

  2. As an update--2 years later... I have stayed away from AGAVE and I am in love with Brown Rice Syrup! :)