Shari Duncan

Hey Honey, Pour some Sugar on Me…. or Not.
Shari

by on Jan.30, 2011, under General HEALTH, General Nutrition, Weight Loss

“There are four basic food groups:  milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles”.  ~Author Unknown

No denying it. We all crave something sweet occasionally. So when we indulge in making a dessert, or sweeten a cup of coffee, what sweetener should we reach for? Sugar, fructose, honey? Calories from sweeteners add up quickly though and most sweeteners contain no nutritional value….So what about artificial, no calorie sweeteners?  It’s all a bit confusing.

Let’s focus first on table sugar (Sucrose) versus Honey.

The case for Honey:

Honey actually contains the same basic sugar units as table sugar. Both contain glucose and fructose. Granulated table sugar, (sucrose), has glucose and fructose hooked together, whereas in honey, fructose and glucose remain in individual units. Fructose is sweeter than glucose, which is one of the reasons fructose is used in so many food products today. However, fructose does not convert to energy as efficiently as glucose. As a result, processed

Sugar, Honey, Splenda, Truvia.... Which is best?

foods containing granulated sugar high in fructose convert to fat stores more easily than honey. But, One teaspoon of table sugar contains 16 calories, while one teaspoon of honey has 22 calories.  (Or 46 to 64 calories per Tablespoon, respectively). Since Honey is both sweeter and denser than sugar, people may use less of it which might bring the actual caloric count about the same.  Honey, however is less processed than table sugar and some nutrition experts say that honey contains trace vitamins and minerals that might aide in digestion.  Note that raw honey contains more nutritional value than commercial honey since it is not filtered.  Honey, also is far less processed than pure sucrose (table sugar) where all naturally occurring trace minerals are removed at the sugar plant, leaving nothing but  “empty calories .   Honey also has a lower Glycemic Index (GI) rating than sucrose.  The lower the GI rating, the more slowly the absorption and infusion of sugars into the bloodstream, meaning a more gradual and healthier digestion.

What about Caloric Sweeteners (Sugar/Honey) versus Artificial Sweeteners?

The case for sugar:

Our bodies understand how to handle incoming nutrients. Through the actions of insulin, the body uses or stores incoming glucose for future use, either as muscle or liver glycogen or as fat. The problem is the body can’t handle the high quantities of sugar that most people are shoveling in.  Most of us eat the equivalent of 20 teaspoons of sugar a day which is definitely a problem if you are trying to lose weight, have to watch blood sugar levels because of diabetes, or all those sweets are keeping you from eating and drinking the nutritious foods your body needs. With that said, at least the body has a mechanism for dealing with and handling sugar. It doesn’t matter if that incoming sugar is in the form of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, or agave nectar…the body knows that it is sugar and breaks it down accordingly.

The case for Artificial Sweeteners:

Sugar is an empty calorie. Sure, with honey and molasses, you get a few vitamins, but calorie-for-calorie, sugar, in all of its forms, is just empty calories. Sugar sends your blood sugar (glucose) sky high which causes insulin levels to spike, sending you into a hypoglycemic funk, and ruining your insulin sensitivity. And sugar is exceedingly easy to over consume. There may be 20 -30 TABLESPOONS of sugar in one pan of brownies that is tempting you right now.

The main reason people choose artificial sweeteners is because they contain no calories. For dieters, sweeteners like Splenda and Equal are considered a free food. “Free foods” are those not counted as carbohydrates, fats, or any other exchange, says the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, “free foods” will not affect an individual’s blood sugar.

But consider this: as bad as sugar is in terms of processing, artificial sweeteners may be worse. These sweeteners are made in a lab from who knows what chemicals. Further, we have no idea what these chemicals will do to the body with sustained long-term use.

**One product you may have heard of that is gaining popularity is Truvia, which is a zero calorie, all natural sweetener

All natural, zero calorie sweetener extracted from the Stevia Plant

extracted from the Stevia Plant. Many people (including myself) see this as a healthy alternative, being that it’s derived from natural sources and it is FDA approved…..and no calories!

So, which is best?

You are probably not going to like the answer: None of the above.

The best option is to ditch the sweet stuff and opt for whole, real foods.  Fat, protein and nutrient dense foods will curb your appetite and fruit or a good dark chocolate your sweet cravings.

If you must add something to your food or drink, use the least processed that you can get, which would be either honey or evaporated cane juice, or if counting calories… TRUVIA. And if you opt for one of the many artificial sweeteners out there, please use sparingly.

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