Which are the healthier options to refined sugars?
You’ve probably heard that sugar is this great enemy not only for your figure, but also for your general health; and that is very true. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has a few recommendations: lower your daily refined sugar intake by opting for less refined sugars, such as coconut sugar, brown sugar and natural honey.
You’re probably asking yourself, what is the deal with stevia and other sweeteners available in your local markets? Don’t let yourself be fooled! The majority of these brands contain a lot of chemicals and some more than regular refined sugar.
This is what this article is all about, the reasons why refined sugar intake is not a good thing, the healthier options and the myth with these “miracle sweeteners”. Get comfortable, we’re just getting started.
Is it so bad to consume sugar?
The answer is yes. In fact, WHO recommends reducing the “free sugar intake” in a 10% within your daily calorie intake. Even more, the same organization indicated that if you achieve in lowering this percentage to 5% (or less), you can attain better health benefits.
Since we’re getting technical here, it’s worth mentioning that in the WHO report there is clear distinction of the different sugar types: the “free” sugars and the “intrinsic” sugars. The first are all that are found in the dessert you enjoyed this past weekend, in the juice you had during lunch or in the extra sugar you had in your coffee in the morning.
Intrinsic sugars are the ones you need and have to consume. This type of sugar is in fruits and vegetables.
Going back to the intake of “free sugars” (the type which is not good for you), it has been proved that amongst the benefits tied to their low consumption are: reduction in dental cavities (specially amongst children), better triglycerides levels, less insulin release and a moderate glucose level (with evident weight and obesity loss), etc.
So, how do we avoid these bad sugar consequences in our organism? Well, very simple: avoid consuming sugar excessively and choose better options. We know that since sugar is a simple carb (its molecules are faster to absorb and in the end they generate energy sooner), that doesn’t imply that we should abuse it.
It is difficult to know for certain the amount of sugar that we should consume daily, so here you have a few recommendations to keep in mind:
Try to consume max 6 spoons of sugar a day, it is best if the number is lower than that. Keep in mind that (like we mentioned before), many foods and drinks contain glucose, even though it doesn’t seem like it, therefore be always on the lookout of what you’re eating and the amounts.
When you go grocery shopping always take a look at the nutrition facts table of any product and get away from those with high sugar levels.
Here keep in mind to always relate each item in the nutrition facts table with the serving size. In many products where you get more than one serving, you think that if you consume all the bag/jar you will only consume what the nutrition facts table marks/shows. For example, if in a cookie packet the serving size says “one” but you have three cookies in the entire pack, then you know that if you eat all three cookies you have to multiply what the nutrition facts table marks times three.
Many products mark in their packaging “low in sugar” but they don’t mention “low in calories per serving”. One cookie can have 19g of sugar and if you eat three of those you can be consuming 57grams in total!
Stevia: too good to be true?
In the market there is another main player which is creating a big buzz amongst the people who want to follow a healthier lifestyle, without quitting flavor in their diet. We’re talking about stevia, a plant which is originally from South America and its components could replace the consumption of refined sugars.
For a moment, although it may sound good, not everything is pink (or green in this case). There are a lot of myths that circulate around this plant and it derivatives. For example, there are people who can confirm that stevia helps relieve anxiety when eating sweet treats. Nothing further from the truth.
Furthermore, in Europe stevia consumption is under strict regulation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) since there are recent investigations that have revealed that processed stevia contains pharmacological activity. This means that stevia acts just like a drug when consuming it. Even still, it has been discovered that in certain cases, it provokes a lower blood pressure, meaning it has hypotensive effects. Also, there is not established data that indicates the ideal quantity or frequency for its consumption.
Stevia, is a plant that when processed without utilizing chemical elements, it’s color is green. The stevia that we have in the supermarket, or the majority of them are white color and that is achieved through a lot of chemical processes.
Although a balanced diet is ideal, try to be more mindful when selecting the type of sugars you’re going to consume. Nowadays, there are so many options in the sugar aisle: coconut sugar and brown sugar are for example a couple that don’t contain chemicals and will not affect your health in the long run.
So now you know; although it may not seem like it, not everything that comes in green packets is always something healthy.
So, what other options do we have left?
We have other alternatives, a couple we already mentioned but let’s analyze them a bit more. Coconut sugar and brown sugar have almost a 0% fat level and their chemical levels are very low (in some brands it’s 0). Additionally, since these sugars are less refined than regular white refined sugar, they can be considered more wholesome since in their manufacturing processes they lose less vitamins and minerals.
Another interesting facts is that these sugars provide a higher quantity of phosphorus and due to that they are recommended when you need to increase your focus when studying. As a disadvantage, their low level of refinement makes these sugars less sweet. This means that if you like your drinks and foods to be sweeter, when using these types of sugar, you will have to increase the serving size.
We cannot finish this article without mentioning honey, a product with a natural origin and antioxidant properties used to alleviate symptoms of a cold/flu. Honey is sweeter when comparing it to white sugar, but unfortunately it also has a lot of calories.
Now you know that the white refined sugar you’re consuming daily can be affecting your health in the long run. White sugar can increase your risk of suffering illnesses such as diabetes and it can even cause you a heart attack. Furthermore, if you continue with the habit of consuming white sugar, each time it will be more difficult to reach your ideal weight.
On the other hand, remember that while you consume less “free sugars” and replace them with intrinsic sugars, your energy will increase as well as your concentration and ability to resolve problems. Quitting sugar may be hard at first but once you find your ideal healthier option the effort will be worth it.
As we saw earlier, stevia and other “natural” sweeteners do not always represent a healthier option. But not everything is lost! Remember that you will always have available less aggressive options for your body. Honey is a great alternative due to all their health benefits and also, if you choose to be a “honey buyer” you will be supporting many entrepreneurs and communities who are dedicated to their production.
If you’re not a fan of honey, remember that you can also buy brown sugar or coconut sugar, the latter are known to have less calories, less chemicals and being less refined.
It’s worth mentioning that quinoa is a great complement to your diet. Our innovative snacks are made with this superfood and we use organic panela (unrefined brown sugar) in our sweet flavors. Visit our recipe section, where you will find how to prepare delicious dishes using our sweet snack flavors as a topping.