Friday, April 29, 2011

Sugars: the good and the bad

I don't like extremest. You know, the ones who say all red meat is bad for you, or to avoid carbs, or to be a vegetarian, or the ones who say eat only raw foods. You catch my drift. The ones who choose to eliminate certain foods for their own reasons. I don't think foods should be regulated like that. I think we have taste buds (and canine teeth!) for a reason. To enjoy a whole variety of foods. Some in moderation, others in plenty. 

Well, in the moderation column of my imaginary book in my mind, sugar is written. 
I don't think all sugar is bad for you. I don't think small bits of refined sugar is deadly. I think it should be enjoyed in moderation

The biggest proof to me, though, that large amounts of refined sugar is not good for your body is what happened when we eliminated it completely for a time. For the first time, my husband did not get strep. 
Strep=bacteria. Bacteria <3 Sugar.
Take away the sugar, and that little bacteria+sugar= <3 relationship ends. Kaput. 

I had to read up, though, for hours and hours on just what my husband could eat. And this is what I found.

The life cycle of sugar.
Cane is harvested and pressed between rollers to extract juice. Juice is heated at high temperatures to form crystals. Crystals are spun from juice. Crystals are treated with chemicals to bleach and refine into table sugar. (That's the cliff notes version...you can find more in depth research online)




White Sugar: 
Processed, bleached, treated with chemicals. Depresses your immune system. Interferes with your body’s natural chemistry. Promotes obesity. Raises insulin levels. Increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Nutrient deficient.

Brown Sugar:
White sugar with a tad of molasses added, though not enough to make it considered any healthier.

Raw Sugar:
Slightly less processed sugar, with parts of the molasses retained. 

Sucanat+Rapadura (what I choose to cook with)
Sugar in its most natural form. It is extracted from the sugar cane and the freshly squeezed juice is evaporated. Only the water is removed. This process preserves all of the molasses and makes it the most healthy form of sugar.

Alternatives: (natural..don't even get me started on the fakes like sweet and low, etc.)

Stevia: A newcomer in the health world, stevia has actually been around for a long time. Is it good for you? The jury is still out, but some reports state (mayo clinic, ehow, webmd) that stevia may contribute to infertility, low blood pressure, and can cause nausea and muscle aches. In lab tests it showed reproductive harm to male rats. Pregnant and nursing women are cautioned to avoid it's use until it has been further tested. The European union and Canada have not permitted it's use in their countries.

Honey (my favorite!): Never goes bad. (really!) Laden heavily with vitamins and minerals. Is metablized slowly so your body can use every bit for a long lasting natural sugar energy. Reduces fat storage. Does not ferment in your stomach (like white sugar) but instead, kills bacteria.

Raw Maple Syrup: Great source of zinc and magnese and good for your heart as well as your immune system. Natural, lightly processed form of sweetener. 

Agave: Agave, like stevia, is controversial. Some say it's a perfectly wonderful sweetener. Others, not so much. After further research, we have chosen t not use it. This article will tell you why. He says it much better then I could. ----> Article <-----



So. There's my take on sugars. We choose to use honey and raw maple syrup for our sweeteners with the occasional sucanat (rapadura). So, am I an extremest who things all sugar should be banned? Nope. Because I enjoy the occasional candy bar, sugar cookie, piece of cake, etc. And my kids like a lollipop every now and then. But that's it. It's about finding  the perfect balance of health and splurge. I don't believe in being restrictive with my kids, but the bulk of their "sweets" will be healthy and from natural, pure sources that are good for you!
 

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