Food Freedom Friday Edition 36

Sweet Nothings

A little bit of sweet can be good for you

I am sure you have heard it before - sugar is sugar is sugar. Whether you are eating honey or maple syrup it is as bad for you as spooning table sugar into your mouth.

Fortunately, that is not exactly true 

What is true is that all sweeteners will cause your blood sugar to spike. This is why I always recommend using even the good ones very sparingly. If you need to lose weight or are battling any major health conditions, I recommend avoiding sweeteners altogether. When healing is your primary goal, reducing your carbohydrate load is always a great idea. 

However, if you have no weight concerns, are healthy and feel like indulging, I am a fan of limited quantities of a few special sweeteners which can be mindfully (and sparingly) consumed with a totally clear conscience. These few make up for their effects on your blood sugar by healing your body in powerful ways.  Take a closer look at my favourites and discover why they can be better for you than table sugar.

1.       Honey

Ancient healers considered honey a medicinal food, and modern science has proven this. Honey has been shown to:

·         Inhibit inflammation.

·         Help fight cancer.

·         Have powerful antibacterial properties.

·         Be a rich source of antioxidants.

·         Help heal your gut. One study even found that honey promotes the growth of good gut bacteria and helps protect against damage caused by dangerous mycotoxins.

Honey can heal you on the outside as well as the inside. Hospitals are starting to use one type of honey, Manuka honey, to treat everything from diabetic ulcers to the super-bug MRSA.

A few cautions:

Never give honey to a baby. It can contain botulinum spores that are harmless to older people but can endanger infants.

Much of what’s labeled as honey is in fact not. Shop for honey at your local farmers’ markets, contact beekeepers directly, or order raw honey online.

2.       Maple Syrup

Maple syrup contains 54 different beneficial compounds, five of which apparently are exclusive to maple syrup and do not exist in any other foods, 

Researcher Navindra Seeram, whose team discovered the wealth of nutrients in this yummy sweetener, says that the “sheer quantity and variety of identified compounds with documented health benefits qualifies maple syrup as a champion food.” I personally am not apt to make such gargantuan claims, but if you are going to reach for a sweetener, maple syrup is a good source to satisfy your sweet desires. 

3.       Blackstrap Molasses

Molasses is the by-product left over from the sugar cane refining process. Eating the dregs is far better than eating the sugar!

Molasses contain the nutrients stripped out of the sugar cane. It is rich in copper, iron, calcium, vitamin B6, and magnesium. In addition, molasses has a significantly lesser effect on blood glucose levels than sugar.

When buying molasses, source out blackstrap molasses. This form contains more nutrients than the other forms.

4.       Fruits.

Prunes, dates, bananas, pumpkin, and unsweetened applesauce are all fabulous sweeteners. Along with a burst of natural sugar, they give you a big dose of fiber and nutrients.

They can replace some or all of the refined sugars in most recipes with a little tweaking and add flavour and added nuances to cooking rather than just the taste of sweet.

5.       Coconut sugar.

Use this coconut based sugar when other sweeteners are not ideal replacements or substitutes. Coconut sugar contains some important nutrients including potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and vitamin C and it has a lesser effect on your blood glucose than table sugar does.

There are two supposedly healthy sweeteners that you may have noticed did not make my list. I use one of these products with extreme caution (to the source and type), while the other I avoid at all costs. Neither is, however, ideal 

1.       Agave

Agave syrup has a higher fructose content than high-fructose corn syrup. It is very heavily processed and one of the furthest things from ‘natural’.  I refuse to consume it, and you should too. If you are choosing to eat fructose, eat it in forms that provide powerful nutrition, vitamins, nutrients and fiber. Get your fructose in the form of fruits, berries, and the healthier alternatives I laid out earlier.

2.       Stevia

Stevia is a double edges sword. Some studies have linked stevia consumption to increased insulin sensitivity. This is a good thing. It has also been shown that non-caloric sweeteners confuse your body, which is a bad thing. If you find yourself using large amounts of stevia because it’s calorie-free, you are still encouraging and habituating your body to expect too much sweetness, and you will struggle to free yourself from your sugar monster.  I turn to stevia only when other healthful sweeteners are unable to do the job. If you do choose to consume it, buy pure stevia rather than brands that contain other additives.

If you carefully and mindfully indulge in the ‘good’ sweeteners, I am willing to bet you will have little struggle giving up agave and stevia. Use the best, your health and nutrition deserve nothing less!!  Take time and experiment with using honey, maple syrup, molasses, mashed fruits, and coconut sugar when your sweet tooth needs a little placating and notice for yourself how a little sweet with some nourishing benefits really does hit the spot.

Michal Ofer