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Get Real: Identifying Sugars

**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.

Let me preface by saying, we are not nutritionists or experts on this topic. However I consider myself an “educated consumer” and I have consciously made choices on choosing sweeteners for my family based on research and reading I have done in my own time

Sugar (photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Public Domain)

Sugar is sweet, addictive and always takes me to my happy place. How about you? I will be the first to admit that I have an addiction to sugar, in ALL FORMS. I crave sweet treats and I have zero discipline. (I especially have no discipline when I’m this pregnant!) But interestingly enough I do have some control where I choose to make my sweet treats at home 99% of the time. And over the past year I have made the choice to switch our whole house to sucanat, and organic brown sugar for our treats. In other recipes I choose to use honey or 100% real maple or agave syrup because they provide a tad more nutritional value.

What you really want to know is did we make that choice? After all that you purged last week, how can you tell the difference and make the choice of what sugar is “best”? And what’s all the chatter about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS) versus “real” sugar? What other sugars are out there and should you look for?

From the Sugar Association, “Sugar or sucrose – is a carbohydrate that is present naturally in fruits and vegetables. Sugar is most highly concentrated in sugar beets and sugar cane. Sugar is simply separated from the beet or cane plant, and the result is 99.95% pure sucrose (sugar). The sucrose from sugar beets and sugar cane is not only identical to one another, but each is the same as the sucrose present in fruits and vegetables.” Sugar is a product of nature. And our bodies recognize all sugars, natural or processed as the same. However processed sugars tend to metabolize faster, therefore creating a want for more. Here are a list of Types of processed sweeteners  that you’ll find on labels of your foods.

High Fructose Corn Syrup or HCFS is one of the most debated sweeteners out there today. Like the above, it has been proven that the body does not process HCFS any differently than table sugar. However it is a highly processed product created by food scientists to provide better aesthetically pleasing baked goods and it can be produced at a fraction of the cost of table sugar. Therefore it is in thousands of products on your grocery shelves today.

In our home I have chosen to switch to organic sucanat (evaporated sugar cane) for our baked goods. It has a one to one ratio for white sugar, and we have tasted no significant difference in our treats. I also use raw honey or pure maple syrup in our drinks or other recipes to replace sugar. While still a sweetener, honey and maple syrup still have some nutritional value and can aid in easier digestion.

Here are some links from our blog partners on sugar I feel you will enjoy reading as well:

January Week 4 Action Item:

Each week we will try to give you some simple action steps to put this journey into practice. It is important that you start this journey by understanding yourself, your goals and perhaps your obstacles.
  1. Monitor or keep a journal of your sugar intake over the next few days and also note the times. Then take a look and see are you above or below the recommended intake of eight teaspoons a day? What times of day are you falling victim to a sugary treat?
  2. What changes after reading, are you going to make when it comes to sugar? Will you choose to use honey and maple or agave syrup more in your baked goods and favorite recipes? Will you cut back the amount of sugar overall? Or is this one hill you aren’t prepared to tackle quite yet?

January Get Real:

Please take a moment to thank our guest authors and sponsors by clicking over to their sites and/or liking them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Guest Author – Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food
Sponsor: ZipListOne pledged Get Real participant will be winning a $200 Visa Gift Card to help them restock their pantry!

21 Responses to “Get Real: Identifying Sugars”

  1. Debbie T says:

    I love Sucanat too. I get it at the WF bulk. But I’ve learned to use a lot less sugar in the dishes I cook and bake. It’s rough at first but your body gets used to less sweet.

    I do not use agave as a lot of evidence is pointing to it being equally as processed as HFCS

  2. I love the spirit in which you are presenting this information… teaching and learning together as a community is so helpful!
    I admit I’ve become a bit of a dessert snob over the years… as I have learned more about sweeteners, I would much rather opt to make my own sweet treats rather than eat a low quality dessert.
    As a result, I have slowly lowered the quantity of sweeteners in my baked goods without noticing. Now, I substitute all sugars with pureed prunes, applesauce or dates soaked in boiling water… of course, the kids (and the hubby) still want “real” desserts on occasion, but as long as we practice moderation, I have no problem making them baked goods with organic sugar cane… it is still significantly better than packaged food!

  3. Kim Coleman says:

    I recently challenged myself to a 3 week detox from all sweeteners (even natural ones like honey). It was tough at first, especially after indulging over the holidays, but now that I’m back to eating how I usually eat, I found that I can find a lot more enjoyment in a lot less sweetener. My cravings are down, my energy is up, and over all I feel great. Moderation is key when it comes to sweets, even with natural ones. Basically, let treats be treats. They aren’t special if you’re constantly indulging.

  4. SarahM says:

    Great info! Thank you! Sugar has been a major hiccup for my family while we transition to real foods. We already limit our 3 year olds sugar intake, one piece of small candy and she’s bouncing off the walls! Even the sugar in fruit juices makes her wild! We limit those also. After my research I was left with more questions (and a headache….so much conflicting info out there!) Which is best? How does it taste? What ratio to replace white sugar and brown sugar? And where do I buy it at a reasonable rate? I found a one pound bag of sucanat at our local grocery store for $8, I can’t afford that. We’ve been trying to use more honey (from our local berry farm, of course!). I love the honey for most things but I really want to get my hands on some sucanat for our baked goods. Any idea where I can find it at a reasonable rate?

    • Tricia says:

      If you have a co-op in your area, that is our best suggestion. If you aren’t sure if there is one in your area you can do a search on Google for your city and the words food co-op. I know a lot of people use either Azure Standard or Bread Beckers, depending on their location in the country. I also think that Amazon sometimes has it on sale.

    • Holly says:

      SarahM, do you have access to a Whole Foods? My local WF (in TX) offers sucanat in the bulk bin section, where it currently sells for $1.99/lb.

      If you want to stock up on an item they sell in the bulk bins, they will give you a 10% discount if you order a full bag. Not sure what that is for sucanat, but for beans, that’s 25 lbs.

      • SarahM says:

        Wow! $1.99/lb? Now that I can do! There’s a Whole Foods about 45 minutes from me, I’ll have to go check it out this week. Thanks so much! I did find a co-op but the next delivery for my area is in March. I’m almost out of white sugar and have a good bit of baking I want to do so I need the sucanat pronto!

  5. Crystal says:

    I made some brownies this weekend, to take to a church potluck, with sucanat. I don’t know if it’s just this brand or what, but no one liked them. I couldn’t stand the taste at all. They were gross. There was definitely a “different” taste to them. Does anyone else have problems with the “taste” of sucanat in your baked goods? I don’t recall this being a problem before, but boy it was a strong flavor this time. This was my first time with this particular brand of sucanat.

    I also agree with Debbie T about agave nectar. I choose to only use Sucanat/Rapadura, raw honey, and real grade B maple syrup. My husband likes to use flavored Stevia for sweetening beverages, but I don’t like the strong aftertaste.

  6. Kristi says:

    Ok, I’m giving up my morning chai latte and replacing it with good old black tea. It is my biggest intake of sugar of the day at 29 grams per cup. Maybe this will help eliminate my mid-morning ‘crashes’.

  7. Kendra says:

    I had to give up all forms of sugar last year, even the natural things like honey and maple syrup because I can not control myself. I just keep eating and eating. Since giving up the sugar, I noticed that I kept pushing it down my husband’s and childrens throats. Almost as if I was living vicariously through them. This week I purged my pantry of all refined white sugar and processed foods. I didn’t have much, but it felt good to get the last bit out.

    I have been experimenting with more natural sweets for my family. My goal is to only make baked goods once a week, all other days are filled with fruits as their snack. It can be really difficult to give up old habits and this has taken me an entire year to get to this point.

    Thanks for this challenge, it helps keep me focused and motivated towards my goal of no processed foods in our home.

  8. Valerie says:

    Actually, this study I read on HFCS being worse than regular sugar really impacted me. You can find it here – http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/. The difference wasn’t small either – 48% higher fat gain plus an increase in triglycerides in the rats that were fed HFCS instead sugar. Yikes! After seeing this, we have gone to lengths to remove all products with HFCS from our home.

  9. Kimberly says:

    With using maple syrup, I was just wondering whether you prefer Grade A or B? or if it matters?

    • Kelly says:

      Kim I use grade A because I have been told its the closest to right out of the tree. But grade b I have seen in a few recipes for more flavor.

  10. Marie N says:

    trying to find some info on xylitol (Xylitol that is made from 100% birch tree not from corn). is this a good sugar substitute or one to also stay away from?

    • Kelly says:

      Marie its a good substitute but there are better options. Heres a good post on it.

      • Marie N says:

        Unable to find the Sucanat >.< I was unable to find xylitol but a xylitol stevia blend. I also found a Organic Coconut Palm Sugar. I bought both the xylitol stevia blend and palm sugar hopefully both will be a good substitute to plain white sugar. Thank you so much for your input on these. I really do appreciate your help :D

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