Sugars, So Sweet

IMG_0416There are so many diseases we see as inevitable: heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis. If you are growing old, you are bound to get one or all of those diseases.

It doesn’t have to be that way! You can avoid a majority of those diseases (including Alzheimer’s) by choosing the foods you eat wisely.  Yeah, I know, easier said than done.  But I don’t think you have to do away with the occasional splurge, as long as your lifestyle is generally comprised of healthy, fresh foods and plenty of activity, whether that activity is at a gym, hiking up a canyon, or pulling weeds and shoveling in your yard.

Sugar:  Now that’s quite a discussion. Until the 1900’s, the most common sweetener used was honey, that sweet, densely thick substance that has a wide range of flavors depending on what nectar the bees were in to.


But with the increase in refineries for sugar cane or sugar beets, and the subsequent price reduction, the use of sugar became the more popular option.  (For more on the process of sugar cane or sugar beets to refined white sugar read:

There’s refined white sugar, “granulated”, (those 4-5 lb. bags you find at the grocery store), refined to a white crystal from either sugar cane or sugar beets.  When I lived in Imperial County, CA, I marveled at the gigantic white mounds of sugar being processed at the Holly/Spreckels sugar plant from local sugar beets.

SugarThere’s brown sugar, which is simply refined white sugar with molasses added back into it, a little for light brown sugar and little more for dark brown sugar.  And molasses is all the stuff left after refining sugar into white crystals.

Venezuelan sugar cane (Saccharum) harvested fo...

Raw or “turbinado” sugar is dried, evaporated cane juice (never sugar beets) which retains more flavor, color, and natural impurities of the sugar cane, but is still somewhat refined.  This is what you find in those little brown packets at coffee houses.

Sugar In The Raw / Turbinado Sugar

Evaporated cane juice sugar is slightly more refined than raw sugar, but not as refined as white sugar, therefore it retains more flavor and color than refined white sugar.

English: Raw (unrefined, unbleached) sugar, bo...

For me, when baking, I steer away from refined white sugar and substitute evaporated cane juice sugar, organic when possible.  Since it is a more expensive product than refined white sugar, it forces me to cut down on baking sweets.  A good thing, right?  I find substituting honey a more difficult task because the sugar-to-honey ratio can be difficult to manage, plus honey has a VERY distinct flavor profile when added to baked goods.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have the time to cook from scratch, then you might be buying all sorts of pre-packaged foods.  And, yep, there’s a lot of sugar to be found there.  I’ve always wondered:  exactly why is there sugar in salad dressings? Pre-Packaged Bread/Peanut-Butter Department

And I remember hearing Anthony Bourdain state once that the reason you love those fresh, steamed veges at a restaurant is not only because of the unctuous butter added, but also the sugar added.  Wow.  Oh, my.

So whether pre-packaged or restaurant-prepared, there’s often sugar in there.  And some “natural” foods are also treated by the body as sugars, such as potatoes and many fruits when they convert to glucose.

IMG_0418Are calories really equal?  Is a teaspoon of white granulated sugar  =  to a teaspoon of raw turbinado sugar or evaporated cane juice sugar?  Is a teaspoon of white granulated sugar  =  to a teaspoon of raw honey from a local farm?  (White sugar has 16 calories in one teaspoon versus 22 calories in one teaspoon of honey.)

I fall on the side of “not equal”, and will reach for any of the above other choices over white sugar.  And the weird thing about sugars is the less you eat them, the less you crave them, and the sweeter they seem to be.  Which is a good thing.

Honey, especially raw honey, is getting a lot of press these days.  Honey contains vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6, in trace amounts. But another boost for the use of honey is the presence of active enzymes.  (Read more on the enzymes in honey here:  Raw honey is not subject to any heating or processing and commercial pasteurized honey generally has only one processing step involved: – heating to prevent crystallization.  (Read the following link on how to tell the difference between real honey and artificial honey, a WHOLE different story:

Day 066/365Honey’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties give it a leg up over white sugar.    Did your mom give you honey in a hot drink when you had a cold?  There’s a reason for that.

And we’re starting to hear about honey used to combat allergies.  When I go to my local farmers’ market, there is always someone at the honey stand looking for allergy relief in the local raw honeys.  Canadian holistic nutritionist Andrea Palen commented:

The idea behind eating honey as a remedy for allergies is kind of like gradually vaccinating the body against pollen allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when the seasons change. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey might make the body more accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance of an allergic immune response.

Read more:

On the other hand, white table sugar is highly processed, removing all
naturally occurring trace minerals from the sugar cane plant and leaving
us with what we have come to know as “empty calories”, devoid of
nutrition like vitamins, minerals, and the enzymes present in honey.

honey that have no traces of pollen and lack beneficial vitamins and enzymes among a host of other natural constituents which are removed due to pasteurization and processing.
There are well over 30 commercial producers of honey that have no traces of pollen and lack beneficial vitamins and enzymes among a host of other natural constituents which are removed due to pasteurization and processing.

All types of sugar should be consumed sparingly, even if it’s honey.  We’re past the holidays and have a chunk of time to change our tastes for the less-sweet.  But don’t forget to enjoy life, including a few sweets.  Order dessert once in a while.  Have that cookie from a co-worker, just one.  All things in moderation!

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