My sugar craving hit earlier today – just after lunch. All I could think about was having a little cookie or something chocolatey; anything sweet. I reluctantly settled on a mandarin orange.
I’m now enjoying a sugar-free coffee; it’s my second of the day. I was eager to try a suggestion from fellow blogger Allison Burnett, who tweeted at me to try sprinkling a bit of cinnamon in my coffee to add some sweetness. (Allison, I can’t say I find it sweeter, but the cinnamon taste is novel and therefore slightly distracts me from the fact that there’s no sugar!)
Today I want to write about my past efforts to avoid white sugar but replace it with other things. You see, for some time I was under the delusion that alternate forms of sugar were “better” for me than refined white sugar. But sadly, my most credible sources have taught me that this is untrue.
A few years ago, I believed that brown sugar was better for you than white sugar. There are many online sites that will back up this claim – trumpeting the perils of refined white sugar while playing up the “healthier attributes” of brown sugar and cane sugar. I went on to have a brief obsession with agave nectar – sometimes paying top dollar for it at health food stores under the assumption that it was better than white sugar in my coffee.
Sadly, this is simply false information. The best and most comprehensive article that I’ve read on the topic comes from a publication called Nutrition Action, which is published by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (a non-profit, health advocacy group based in Toronto). In the April 2012 issue, the cover story, “Sugar Belly: How Much is Too Much?” breaks down some of the common misconceptions about sugar consumption. One of the most important points made in the article is that sugar by any other name is still bad for you.
Nutrition Action did their research by talking to the experts. “Added sugars – whether they come from sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, or fruit juice concentrates – all have equal adverse effects metabolically,” says Harvard University’s Vasanti Malik. “This obsession with high-fructose corn syrup is a little misguided.”
A simple chart in the article shows how every sweetener – from corn syrup to raw sugar to honey to agave – is made up of fructose and/or glucose. Both of them are bad for you – contributing to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The key points of this five-page, feature article are summarized at the end in a pull-out box called ‘The Bottom Line’:
- Shoot for 100 calories (6.5 teaspoons) a day of added sugars if you’re a woman and 150 calories (9.5 teaspoons) a day if you’re a man.
- Don’t drink sugar-sweetened beverages. Limit fruit juices to no more than 1 cup a day.
- Limit all added sugars, including glucose-fructose, cane or beet sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, and honey.
- Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in fruit, milk, and plain yogurt.
- If a food has little or no milk or fruit (which contain natural sugars), the “Sugars” number on the package’s Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how many grams of added sugars are in each serving. Divide the grams by 4 to get teaspoons of sugar.
I know – it’s tough to swallow. But wouldn’t you rather know the truth?