I’ve had a boatload of questions regarding sweeteners which I’ve been needing to answer. Ever since I did my original post on sweeteners, It seems that I’ve gotten a question every week about sweeteners! Today I would like to answer a few common ones (paraphrased by me).
It’s been amusing to me to see everyone’s reaction to my sweet treats on my blog. Some people say that they have to “up” the sweeteners I use a lot to taste right, others half the sweetener and say it’s much to sweet. Some reprimand me for having desserts at all on the site. It just goes to show that my readers have diverse opinions about sweeteners. We are probably all in a different place in regard to the big “sugar” question. I think that we need to be kind and understanding in dealing with those with differing opinions than us.
Also amusing to me was when I was on a grain and sugar free diet for a month (though I didn’t mention it on my blog), my daily traffic fell that whole month, but when I added them back in and started sharing grain/sweet recipes- my blog started growing again.
There is something about grains and sweets that we just like, isn’t there!
I’d always had a big sweet tooth growing up, but was later able to conquer it by simply not having dessert for a period of time (and by not eating sugar forming foods and adding in lacto-fermented foods). I was sensitive to all types of sweeteners, even fruit. In fact, I have gone a long time without even eating fruit, let alone a dessert. But I hardly think that everyone is as sensitive to me. Now my sugar cravings are under great control, to the point that I often could care less if I didn’t have dessert for a year. If you have a “sugar addiction”, let me tell you, it’s lovely to be free from it!
I know that some think that we should never indulge in sweeteners at all, and perhaps that’s true of some of us (like me, at certain times). But I do think that having occasional sweet treats makes life a little more enjoyable and won’t harm our health. The problem is, of course, that most of us are hardly occasional. The last few weeks, I have been almost sweetener free. I’ve used just a bit of stevia, and had a few berries in my oatmeal and that’s been it, and it’s really not been a big deal to do so. That speaks freedom, doesn’t it?
To all my sugar addicted readers *wink*, don’t worry, I am still going to be making desserts and posting recipes on occasion as I have birthdays coming up! I am also trying to fatten my skinny husband up, so sweets will still be here, even if I am not eating them.
But this leads up to the first question I would like to answer.
Question Number One:
“If white sugar raises my blood sugar as much as whole can sugar, how can it be better for me?”
If you are diabetic, blood sugar levels are top priority for you. I don’t recommend that you use sweeteners much at all. There is a difference however between white sugar and unrefined sugar. Blood sugar levels are not the only stress that sugar brings to our body.
” The refining process strips grains, vegetables and fruits of both their vitamin and mineral components. Refined carbohydrates have been called “empty” calories. “Negative calories is a more appropriate term because consumption of refined calories depletes the body’s precious reserves. Consumption of sugar and white flour may be liken to drawing on a savings account” pg 21, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
The thought here is that it by consuming refined foods, including sugar, it actually takes away vitamins and minerals from our body to process it! That’s why refined sugar is “negative” calories, while an unrefined cane sugar contains vitamins and minerals so that it won’t pull it from you.
“The naturally sweet foods from which sugar is extracted-sugar beet, sugar can and corn- are particularly high in nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, and chromium. All of these seem to play an important role in the blood sugar regulation mechanism. These nutrients are discarded-or made into animal feed-when the raw product is refined into sugar. Refining strips foods of vital nutrients while concentrating sugars, thus allowing us to fulfill our body’s energy requirements without obtaining the nutrients needed for bodybuilding, digestion and repair.” pg 24, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
So again, if you are diabetic, whole cane sugar will raise your blood sugar, so don’t use it. But for everyone else, use sugar sparingly, and then use the whole cane sugar, or other unrefined sweetener.
Question Number Two:
” Is _______ sweetener okay for me? I have ______ issues”
For than anything else, I get questions about coconut sugar because I have used it in many of my recipes. One recent question was about the effect of the sucrose ( naturally found in the coconut sugar) on the kidneys. I haven’t read up on that directly, but I do want to say this.
Everyone will respond differently to sweeteners. Sally Fallon also mentioned that researchers have found that different sweeteners react differently on people’s blood sugars! They even found that some didn’t have their blood sugar spike when eating white sugar (which doesn’t mean that they should eat it, because there are other issues with white sugar, but just to say that everyone reacts differently). On reading some forums online about sweeteners, some diabetics shared that raw (truly raw) honey didn’t raise their blood sugar at all (while obviously it does for many).
If you have any type of health issue, the type of sweetener you want to use (if any), should be individually addressed. Fructose is processed by the liver, so that means if you eat a lot of fructose (corn syrup, agave syrup), your liver is going to have to work a lot. If you have liver issues, even avoiding some fruit may be the best choice for you. If it’s true that sucrose is processed through your kidney’s and you have issues with it, then don’t give it more work to do by sending it a lot of high in sucrose sweeteners.
Question Number Three:
” You have desserts on your site, but you are supposed to have “nourishing” recipes. What’s up?”
I often don’t eat desserts of any type including fruits because of some issues I’ve had. However, that doesn’t mean that I think that everyone should be completely sugar free. But it also doesn’t mean that I think that everyone should be eating dessert every night either. I will share more on this later in a “Lessons from History” post, but our consumption of sweet foods have increased dramatically over the year. Sweets are no longer a treat, they are the norm. That’s a huge problem.
However, I think that for a healthy, robust person, having moderate use of sweet foods, like fruit and unrefined sweeteners is just fine. That’s just my opinion (and for Nourishing Tradition lovers, it’s shared by Sally Fallon as well), and this is my site and that’s why I include some desserts here. I don’t think that eating nourishing food dictates you to a completely unsweet life if you are a healthy person, just a moderately sweet life.
Question Number Four
“What do you think about Xylitol? “
I think first, that it’s a refined product. That makes me a little nervous from the get go. Also, because your body doesn’t really process it, it can cause digestive discomfort. However, it does seem that many studies show that it helps fight against cavities and can even heal small cavities. No small feat.
It still makes me nervous though. There are usually side effects to refined foods and too many “healthy” sugars have been promoted for being health promoting, only to be debunked later. I would say if you have teeth issues, consider xylitol like a drug that may help, but could potentially have side effects. To read both sides of the issue, check out the list of studies here on the pro’s and then check out the con’s here.
Finally, if your interest in xylitol are rooted in teeth issues, consider reading Cure Tooth Decay (you will find it in the “con’s” link.) It may be helpful to you.
Well, that about wraps it up for today. In closing, I think we are all looking for the “perfect” sugar that we can indulge in all the time and not face any consequences. Any food taken in excess is bad for us, and that certainly applies towards sweeteners. My ending piece of advice is moderation. I don’t think we should feel guilty for using it in moderation, but neither do I think we should use large amounts of it. In everything, moderation.
I hope that clears up some of your questions! I would love to hear your stories too. Have you had to completely stop using sugar? Are you currently addicted to sweets? How has the transition been to using more natural choices?