Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Sugar is sugar, and not to be the basis of our diet.
However, sugar (a.k.a glucose) is our easiest fuel source- it gives us instant energy, fuels our brain and charges our muscles.
That being said sugar can be VERY detrimental if our only sources are VOID OF NUTRIENTS.
Sugar can be straight-up dangerous if our body is not equipped with the proper nutrients needed to utilize the glucose circulating our bloodstream. Excess sugar in our system is what leads to inflammation, insulin resistance and paved path to health complications!!
So why not learn about the options available to us? That way we can indulge, feel great, and support our body with the nutrients it needs! Balance makes the world go 'round!!!
The type of sugar matters!!
What are the least refined sugar options available to us?
Sources like fruits and vegetables, plants like grains in their wholeform-state.
Our body both breaks down the vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients AND the sugar found in fruits, vegetable & grains. Since there is more for the body to break down, it takes more time for our body to work through everything making the absorption of sugar at a balanced rate- INSTEAD of absorbing ALL AT ONCE like what is done when we eat processed refined foods where the vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients ARE NOT THERE. Does that make sense? There basically is more going on with whole foods, meaning it takes longer for our body to break them down, and then instead of us getting a sudden rush of sugar energy and then a crash, we cultivate our energy over time- THIS IS MUCH MORE SUSTAINABLE!
What are the most refined options of sugar available to us?
Sources like refined & bleached white flour, white sugar and processed additives in foods, like the ingredients on labels that you cannot pronounce, much of the time these are processed sugar ingredients.
The especially chalk white products are something to WATCH OUT FOR! These completely refined "foods" dramatically spike our blood sugar, leading to over consumption of calories and nutrient imbalance & deficiency. Unlike the whole foods mentioned above, where sugar is surrounded with nutrients and fibre, white refined foods contain NO NUTRIENTS other than carbohydrates! Well wait I guess that's not true.. since the turn of the industrial revolution there are laws to ensure refined flour is fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals to prevent widespread disease due to nutrient deficiency. Before fortification began people were suffering from skin disease and miscarriages due to the wide consumption of processed foods being deficient in the adequate nutrients needed to live a healthy balanced life.
Still, even with synthetic fortification, we cannot recreate what naturally occurs in nature, and the healthiest way to inoculate refined flour is to FERMENT it, this is why sourdough bread is so healthy!!! The bacteria grown during the fermentation process release B vitamins and break down protein structures of the bread making it much more digestible for the body. I remember watching a Michael Pollan documentary and he spoke about how man cannot survive long off of flour alone, but if it is then fermented he can essentially grow the nutrients needed for survival.
Personally in my household we eat fresh & lightly refined flour and ideally fermented bread products. I find that whole grain foods are too heavy in my stomach and I have rarely found a whole grain food that has been fermented well enough to prevent gas buildup in my digestive system. At most grocery stores you can find a decent sourdough bread, however we either make it at home or go to local bakeries that specialize in fresh and traditionally fermented breads. I try to avoid bread products that are not made fresh and contain preservatives (so I definitely say no all those breads in the bread aisle with week-long date codes), because I find them very yeasty and they do not sit well in my body.
Sucanat - tastes like caramel
And then there are the sugars below...
These options are still refined sources of sugar however they are not completely void of nutrients or fibre, depending on the product. I think it's important to view these foods as a treat, and as a way to raise taste value in a meal but not as a main-deal in a meal.
Less refined granulated sugar options:
My top 3 favourites are below, you will definitely find these in my cupboards!
Raw sugar / turbinado sugar / demerara sugar- refers to sugar cane that still retains some molasses. There are multiple names of this, depending on where you are buying it. It is a darker than raw cane sugar so it tastes a little more of caramel.
Cane sugar- has a golden glisten, but not chalk white like granulated white sugar.
Brown sugar- the combination of crystallized sugar + molasses. This is great for baking.
More tasty granulated sugar options:
These are less common to find. I would recommend shopping online, health food stores or checking out your local ethnic grocers to find the following:
Sucanat / rapadura- (means 'sugar-cane-natural'). Called this because it is the unrefined dehydrated sugar cane or sugar beet juice. They crush the canes/beets until a juice comes out, heat it into a dark syrup and then dehydrate this.
Jaggery- instead of evaporating the above syrup into little globular pieces, jaggery is poured into molds to create chunks or patties.
Molasses- the syrup that is drained/refined from processing sugarcane/beet during the crystallization process.
Coconut sugar- created by dehydrating the nectar from the flowers on the coconut tree. It is not crystallized, meaning it has been processed less.
Coconut sugar and raw honey have the lowest glycemic index reading of the sugars at a 35 compared to brown sugar at 65.
My ultimate favourite sweeteners:
Unpasteurized honey- I view honey as a health food because it benefits our immune system. I am fascinated with trying honey at different times of the year and from different regions because the floral arrangement the bees gathered from. (great to prevent allergies!). To gain the most amount of benefit from honey make sure it is unpasteurized.
Maple syrup- I love the Earthy flavour and I find it extremely energizing! I feel very connected to our immediate environment when I eat maple syrup.
Homemade simple syrup!! I love making a fresh batch of this because I view it as a fun way to be creative with spicy and sweet flavours in the kitchen.
Hope you have a SWEET day!