Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What type of sugar is best for you?

Welcome back to "Thinking Tuesday".  
Food, diet, and nutrition has become a world of myths, misconceptions, and utter confusion.  Am I right?  One day it's good to eat something and another day its not.  It can be frustrating to put it mildly.  
Mom, I just don't know what to think anymore!
Sugar is one area where I get asked a lot of questions.  Some sugars are marketed as "healthier" than other sugars. Do I believe that to be true? No.

Sugar is sugar.  Once it inside your body it is primarily converted to glucose for metabolic fuel. End of story.  
Does a $8 bottle of agave nectar shave inches off your waist when used in your fave chocolate chip cookie recipe????  What do you think? It doesn't.
Here's the not so sweet truth:
  • Sugar has 16 calories per teaspoon. 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. 
  • Eating sugar won't make you gain weight, provided you don't exceed the amount of calories you need daily 
  • Sugar does have some negative effects.  Too much sugar in your diet can elevate the levels of fat in your blood and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
  • Your taste buds can't distinguish between naturally occurring sugars (an orange) and added sugars (an orange soda)
But I didn't need to tell you that sugar wasn't a pillar of good health. I'm trying to help you weed through the mess of sugar stories out there and get the truth.
1. Is honey healthier than sugar?
          - Honey contains a negligible amount of potassium, but has more calories than sugar. (21 calories per teaspoon vs. 16 for sugar).
2. Is agave nectar healthier than sugar?
          - Agave nectar is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, however it still contains calories. Simply because it is "less processed" and from a plant doesn't make it less of a sweet mess.  Agave sugar does have a lower glycemic index than sugar. The glycemic index determines how quickly carbohydrates are digested in your body. The more quickly they're digested, the quicker they get into your bloodstream and deliver a sugar rush that affects your blood sugar level. While sugar has a high glycemic index, the agave nectar glycemic index is low, meaning it won't impact your blood sugar as much. This can be especially important to diabetics.
3. Is maple syrup healthier than sugar?
            - Maple syrup costs significantly more than sugar and has a high glycemic index.
4. Is brown rice syrup healthier than sugar?
             - Brown rice syrup has a low glycemic index but may still spike blood sugar due to maltose.
5. Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup healthier than sugar?
            - Well this one really depends on who you ask.  I'm not going to take on the HFCS machine.  I will say that I personally avoid HFCS at all costs simply because it's very processed and contains "high levels of fructose".
So what's the point??? I don't know!  I'm not the final authority on all things food related.  I'm just presenting facts.  Facts that might help you make a better food choice down the line.  Facts that might help you think twice when someone says their granola bar is "healthy" because it was made with honey.

For me personally I try to limit my added sugar intake and avoid high fructose corn syrup.

What's your take on this sweet situation?

Love and sweet tooths,
Carissa & Kyle

If you're new to Thinking Tuesday you can catch up here:week 1 hereweek 2 hereweek 3week 4week 5, week 6.

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor or an RD (yet). I'm simply presenting facts.  This research was from my Nutrition & Me book at I used in my Principles of Nutrition class.


  1. Such an important post! So many people create "healthy" recipes because they use maple syrup or honey, but it's still sugar. Yes, it's less processed, and the sugar alternatives may have some antioxidants/benefits. People should just try to limit their sugar in general, and limit processed foods (which always have lots of sugar). My favorite "sugar" anyways is fruit!

  2. I try to avoid as much sugar as possible (and I buy organic cane - because at least it's local to Florida and there are less chemicals involved) - and I avoid HFCS at all costs. Oh, and I definitely avoid all artificial sweetener too - they are JUST as bad - if not worse.

    Sadly, I wonder what we'll have to avoid next?

  3. What about stevia? Just curious your thoughts on it too!
    Great post :)

  4. You didn't mention date sugar or stevia.

  5. I left out date sugar and Stevia because I didn't have any research/facts to support what I wanted to say. I'd hate to put out false info. I personally dislike the use of artificial sweeteners and I'm not sold on Stevia. There are some weird things I've heard about its FDA approval and Coca Cola...if I can get solid, unbiased research on it I'll definitely share.

    Thanks for the feedback!

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