Raw Health – Sugar Alternatives
You don’t need to be an expert to realise we are a nation of sugar addicts! What was once a rare treat is now laden in most foods, digested daily and even more what was eaten as natural source now comes in many artificial forms!
So, cutting down on sugar for health reasons is priority. But guess what, you don’t have to give up sugar all together. Sugar (glucose) is an essential part of our diet as it’s absorption in the body provides our muscles and cells with energy. It’s the type of sugar that’s important for healthy eating and as sugar now comes in a variety of forms, it’s no wonder we’re confused when choosing the right alternative. Fruits are the perfect sugar alternative – they are natures energy source. An orange perfect for kids after exercise.
Managing your sugar consumption is not as simple as choosing ‘sugar-free’ labels as the alternative ingredients are much worst for you. Artificial sweeteners, a common substitute for sugar, are known to cause a host of symptoms from headaches, fatigue to diabetes and even cancer, so I recommend avoiding them entirely. Even though they have the lowest GI index (meaning they have a slower release of energy, maintaining stable blood sugar levels) our bodies struggle to break down the substance efficiently because it’s essentially a ‘fake food’ that our insides don’t recognise.
Not only do I recommend avoiding artificial alternatives, but I suggest being cautious of natural forms too. Fructose is derived from fruits and vegetables but despite it’s natural source, consuming too much fructose overwhelms the body’s capacity to process it. The diets of our ancestors contained only very small amounts of fructose. These days, estimates are that approx 10% of the modern diet comes from fructose – but the level of fructose is hidden in many foods today. So it really can be a battle field when it comes to removing sugar from your diet.
My recommendation when it comes to sugar is eat fruits to give you that beautiful natural sugar hit, they are designed specifically for our bodies to consume and break down.
Sweeteners that I recommend and that we use:
Considered to be one of the most sustainable sweeteners in the world, our Organic Coconut Nectar comes from the beautiful island of Java in Indonesia. Coconut Nectar is produced from coconut palm blossoms and is a great tasting, low GI (35) alternative for people with fructose sensitivities.
Coconut Nectar is naturally low on the Glycemic Index (GI), which has benefits for weight control and improving glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). It’s rated as GI 35.
Coconut Nectar produces slow release energy, which sustains the human body through its daily activities without regular sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. It also has a nutritional content far richer than all other commercially available sweeteners.
Coconut Nectar has a high mineral content. It is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. In addition to this it contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B6. When compared to brown sugar, Coconut Nectar has twice the iron, four times the magnesium and over 10 times the amount of zinc. Coconut Nectar is unfiltered and preservative free.
Gabriel Cousens talks about stevia in his book There is a cure for diabetes that stevia is the only sweetener he recommends as it has a gylcemic index of 0 and does not raise the blood sugar (see p.294) Studies show that it may even regulate blood sugar.
Unlike sugar, it does not trigger a rise in blood sugar levels. You won’t get a sudden burst of energy followed by fatigue and a need for another “fix”. Studies suggest that Stevia has a regulatory effect on the pancreas and could help stabilize blood sugar levels in the body, making it a wise choice for the people with diabetes and hypoglycemia. It increases energy, aids digestion and gastrointestinal functions and has many other health benefits. We use stevia as sweetener and only recommend using an organic source.
Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It promotes body and digestive health and is a powerful antioxidant. It strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and infections.
Fresh Medjool Dates provide the body with hours of natural energy. Dates also contain high levels of potassium; and are a rich source of Vitamin B6 – You can use dates by soaking them in water and creating a paste as an excellent source of a natural sweetener.
Sugar/ Sweetener options, and the dangers of many.
So, when choosing a sugar substitute you have to weight up several things – GI index, where it comes from and how the body processes it’s form. The below table contains popular examples of sugars that you will come across in products, as well as natural sugars found in wholefoods.
- Glycemic Index for Sweetners, viewed 22 May 2014, <http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html>
- Douillard J, 2000, The 3-Season Diet, Three Rivers Press, New York
- Wilson S, 2013, I Quit Sugar, Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney
- Ainscough J, 2013, Make Peace with Your Plate, Change Your Life One Meal at a Time, Hay House Pty Ltd. Australia
- Rosenthal J, 2007, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness, 1st ed, Integrative Nutrition Publishing, New York