Cutting Back on Sugar for a Healthier Family
Photo Courtesy Lianne Phillipson-Webb
Sugar is in just about all foods, and while we expect to find it in treats like like pop, jam and cookies, high levels also lurk in many other kitchen staples, such as cereal, nut butters, salad dressing, and soups. Statistics Canada found that Canadians eat, on average, 26 teaspoons of sugar (that’s eight and a half tablespoons or half a cup) each day.
Whether it’s white, brown, superfine or confectioner’s, all refined sugar has the same effect once it’s consumed: A swift rise in blood sugar level triggers the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin removes the sugar from the blood stream and stores it as fat for later. The crash that usually follows this consumption alerts your stress hormones to kick in and bring you back to balance. It’s a yo-yo of hormones that become depleted and tired over time.
You’ve probably read something in the news about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It’s cheap to manufacture and transport, so very attractive to manufacturers watching their bottom line. Most commonly known to sweeten pop, it’s linked to obesity, diabetes and fatty liver disease. Sometimes called glucose-fructose on Canadian labels, look out for it and leave it behind.
Why is Sugar Bad for You?
-Sugars found in whole foods are balanced with minerals that aid its digestion. Once sugar is refined, it lacks those minerals, calling on your body’s reserves –- like calcium from bone -- to buffer its acidic effect. This buffering can lead to osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, tooth decay and high blood pressure.
-Sugar contributes to Candida Albicans, a digestive fungus that thrives on sugar. Symptoms like brain fog in the morning, yeast infections (vaginal, mouth, jock itch, athletes foot, or fungus under finger or toe nails), depressed immune system and urinary tract infections.
-Hypoglycemia or unbalanced blood sugar is the up and down roller coaster effect of consuming too much sugar or HFCS. Diabetes can follow after years of this up and down as the pancreas becomes overworked, cells become resistant to insulin, and it can’t keep up.
-Sugar increases cravings for more sugar which can lead to carrying excess weight and obesity, heart and liver disease.
- Every time sugar is consumed, the immune system becomes sluggish for at least three hours. Any opportunistic bacteria or virus can win against the weary immune army and sickness ensue. Cancer cells thrive on sugar, so reducing not only the risk of cancer, but may slow down tumor growth.
How About Syrup and Honey and Other Unprocessed Sweeteners?
Maple syrup, black strap molasses, brown rice and barley malt syrup, agave and honey are delicious unrefined sweeteners, ones that don't give the same spikes and lows as their refined counterparts. Still not a good idea to consume them excess, but they are always a better alternative to the stuff in your bag of granulated sugar.
Maple syrup: Is among the least refined sweeteners that are flavourful and contain minerals.
Black strap molasses: A byproduct of sugar refinement that’s siphoned off before sugar is bleached. It is richest in minerals of all sweeteners, especially calcium and iron.
Barley malt and brown rice syrup: Both are a more complex carbohydrate, so digested much slower, while having less dramatic impact on blood sugar levels.
Agave syrup: Made from the agave plant is higher in fructose than any other sweetener mentioned here. Use less of this one than others and buy it raw.
Raw honey: No refinement happens with raw honey. It’s straight from the hive, enzymes and all. Local honey can help with seasonal allergies also.
The recipe below maximizes on sweetness from fruit, and save your kids from drowning their pancakes or waffles in syrup.
Blueberry Pancake or Waffle Sauce
1 cup blueberries (I prefer wild, from frozen)
¼ cup water
2 tsp corn, tapioca or potato starch in 1 tbsp water, to dissolve
1-3 tsp maple syrup
- Warm through blueberries and water in a saucepan.
- Mix starch with water in a small bowl until smooth and stir into blueberries and water.
- Continue to stir until sauce thickens.
- Blend if desired. Add in syrup to taste.
Serve over pancakes or waffles. Makes ¾ cup of sauce.
Do you look out for HFCS on ingredient labels?
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