Raw cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, beet sugar, dates, coconut sugar, concentrated fruit juice, Xylitol, Stevia?
Let me start out by clearly stating, Health-Bent believes that sugar, of any form, should be consumed in extreme moderation. Our desserts are not overwhelmingly sweet and are not intended to duplicate “traditional” recipes. We’re on a mission to change what dessert means, not to try to squeeze our recipes into the conventional definition of dessert.
Why do we write recipes that use table sugar (sucrose) as the sweetener instead of any of the “healthy”sweeteners listed above?
Sucrose (white, table sugar), evaporated cane juice, beet, raw and date sugar, maple syrup, honey and even HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP contain roughly the same number of carbohydrates–4 grams per teaspoon. That equates to 12 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon. There are 16 tablespoons in a cup. Add up the amount of sweetener you’re using in your treats, along with the starch (almond flour, coconut flour, gluten-free whatever) and it piles up realllllly quickly.
|Sucrose (white sugar)||64|
|Barley malt syrup||42|
|Brown rice syrup||25|
|High fructose corn syrup||62|
|Stevia||less than 1|
|Sugar cane juice||43|
|Evaporated cane juice||55|
|Black strap molasses||55|
Glucose is your blood sugar. Fructose is bound to glucose in a 50/50 relationship to make sucrose and in a 55/45 relationship to make HIGH fructose corn syrup. Now you get what the high part of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) means? So when those commercials come on and tell you corn sugar/HFCS is the same as sugar, they’re pretty much right.
Everything else should be pretty self-explanatory. So, looks cool that Agave Nectar is low on the G.I. list. We should totally shove it into our faces? Wrong…
The “sugar is sugar” axiom works to help us understand that any starch (though not sugar as we think of it when we eat it) will eventually be broken down into sugar in our bodies…and will raise our blood sugar (blood glucose).
Starch is a chain of bound glucose that will become glucose in your bloodstream by digestion. This saying also serves to get us to take a harder look at fruit as something that conventional wisdom will tell you needs no moderation. But the saying does fall flat and is too simplistic in conveying a fundamental difference with sugar molecules that definitely needs attention. Most of the sweeteners (table sugar, maple syrup, honey, fruit juices, etc.) and sugary foods (fruits) that we eat contain different compositions of the molecules glucose and fructose. We know that regulating our blood glucose is important…but where does fructose fit in this equation?
Fructose is not metabolised in the same way as glucose (starches are chains of glucose). It’s metabolised almost solely by your liver. High levels of fructose consumption can put a real burden on your liver and lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). Fructose molecules can also glycate (bind with other molecules) to produce free radicals and promote inflammation. So any sweetener or fruit with high fructose content is worth being very mindful of. The so called “low glycemic” sweeteners are such because they contain less glucose and more fructose. That’s how they raise your blood sugar less…but they’re even nastier.
Agave nectar is made in a similar fashion as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The starch inside the agave plant is transformed into free synthetic fructose. Agave nectar has MORE synthetic fructose than HFCS. So what does that mean? Your body can’t use it and so it ends up stored as fat in your body, is inflammatory and can wreck your metabolism. No thanks.
Trace minerals, etc.
The minerals and vitamins found in honey, maple syrup and unrefined, raw sugars really aren’t beneficial enough in the small quantities we consume them in. Besides, a diet like ours, high in animal protein & fats, seafood, vegetables and natural sea salt will give you a much higher dose of all of these things. It makes less sense to worry about what “IS paleo” than to just try and be aware of your fructose consumption. If you’re going to eat sugar, you’re fooling yourself if you think honey or concentrated fruit juice or dates will be much better for you than white sugar. Your body can barely tell the difference.
Taste and Budget
Taste reigns supreme in our house. Stevia has been known to leave some funky, licorice-y aftertastes in your mouth–and it can be a budget buster. So we don’t bother with it.
Along with Stevia, other natural sweeteners out there can run upwards of $10 a pound. That’s absolutely ludicrous! If you buy this stuff, don’t tell me you can’t afford to eat “Paleo”. Buy the cheap, white stuff and use it like a condiment.
Splenda, Equal, NurtiSweet, etc. Oh it’s fabulous right? It’s calorie free! Think about this for a minute…why in the hell is it calorie free? What exactly does that mean? It means that our bodies CANNOT digest these foreign chemical substances and they pass directly through us.
Sorbitol, Xylitol and other sugar alcohols (look for sweeteners ending in -tol) are not calorie free, but can still cause discomfort in some people. Anyone have I.B.S. that can’t be attributed to lactose or gluten? Cut out the diet drinks, conventional toothpaste, mouthwash and gum. Apples, pears, peaches and plums contain Sorbitol too, so don’t mass consume them or their juices! See if your tum-tum (and your bum-bum) doesn’t thank you.
Like I said from the get-go, any sweetener you use should be used in extreme moderation. Plain and simple, I don’t like to waste food or money and I am more familiar with how sucrose works in baked goods. I know it creates fluffy textured goodies by way of air bubble creation during the creaming method, it’s hygroscopic; making treats soft and tender. In frozen concoctions, it keeps large water crystals (a.k.a. ice) from forming– this keeps the texture soft and smooth.
All that being said, if you want to experiment with different sweeteners, DO IT! If you find success, please share! We are open-minded (and hell-bent on health!) here and are always interested in hearing your opinions.