Monday, March 8, 2010

Sugar by Any Other Name is Still as Sweet

Barley malt, dextrin, dextrose, fructo-oligosaccharides, glucose, sucrose, polydextrose, diastase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol , xanthan gum (fermented glucose or sucrose), high fructose corn syrup. Sound familiar? Read: Sugar.

Sugar is almost impossible to get away from if you're buying packaged food. It's even hard to stay away from it when you're making things from scratch. While sugar may have it's place in a healthy diet (granted, a small place), if you're insulin resistant like me, it's really important to keep it in check.

High Fructose Corn-Syrup is not good for you. I think people generally know this. I've known it's been bad for me for many years. But it took actually understanding why it's so much worse than eating sugar by the spoonful to actually start avoiding it. Apparently, fructose "does not stimulate insulin secretion and the consequent increase in leptin, a hormone produced by far cells that tells your brain you are full, which reduces appetite (Ultrametabolism pg 98).” When you eat fruit (nature's source of fructose), you have the fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidents etc. to slow down the absorbtion. When it’s processed into hfcs, it absorbs quickly and goes straight inside your cells which turn it directly in to cholesterol and triglycerides.

Artificial sweeteners aren't the answer either. Dr. Hyman explains, “putting something on the sweet receptors of the tongue tells the brain that something sweet is coming and to get ready by producing hormones such as insulin…(but) they do not act as sugar does and do not balance your insulin. As a result, you end up with excess insulin in your body, so you end up eating more food...This whole pattern disrupts your appetite control system in serious ways (UM pg 99).”

Natural, non-nutritive sweeteners have been all the rage for a while. Sorbitol and xylitol are made from wood pulp. Stevia and agave syrup are from plants. These are definitely an upgrade from the processed, manmade versions, but as I understand it, the jury is still out on their effect on insulin resistance.

My preference is to make every effort to reduce the amount of sugar I'm using and to use actual sugar when I do use it. I'm really fond of using honey as a sweetener. I try to substitute it in whenever possible. It lasts forever in your food storage and if you get local honey, it can reduce your allergies because it has bee pollen from where you actually live.I use molasses in my bread and brown sugar over white whenever possible. I've seen real maple syrup used in some recipes and I'd like to experiment more with that option. In general, I've found that eliminating sugar where possible is the best strategy I've had. When I really want something sweet, I try to limit myself to things I've made from scratch - can't live without that flourless chocolate cake. Maybe I need to learn to make donuts...

Update 6/22: We've switched over to using only honey or real maple syrup in everything for the last two and a half months. It wasn't as hard to do as I thought it would be. I still eat sugar if someone else makes something or brings treats but all of our at-home cooking is white and brown sugar free. I definitely feel a lot more healthy in general and I can tell a huge difference the day after I've had a 'cheat'.


  1. Do you decrease the amount of liquid when you use molasses or honey instead of brown sugar?

  2. For a cup of sugar, use 7/8 cup of honey or 3/4 cup of maple syrup. If you're baking, reduce liquid in the recipe by 3 TB.