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Sweets and What You Need to Know 

 October 2, 2023

By  Jolinda Rockett

Last Updated: December 8, 2023

Keep the fun - taste the sweet


Sugar is everywhere! It may be the scariest goblin of Halloween. We are aware that little individually wrapped candy bits can add up and give us an unhealthy dose of sugar. But it should frighten you to find out there is hidden sugar in almost every processed food we consume.

NOTE: ANY FOOD YOU DIDN'T MAKE IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN FROM NATURAL INGREDIENTS IS PROBABLY SOMETHING PROCESSED.

If we are smart and use it to enhance our food, sweet is a fun flavor. But before we start substituting sweeteners for sugar, let's look at some of our choices and what they can offer and what you may want to avoid. It is easy to think that if something is natural, it must be good, but that isn't always enough of a distinction.

We can take the guilt out of sweetness and learn about our choices for non-sugar options with the comparisons below.

To help you adjust your usage of the sweetener options, here is a conversion chart.

It is important to understand glycemic index, abbreviated as GI. Keep in mind, the lower the GI, the less of an impact it has on insulin (a good thing). 

Stevia and Monk Fruit (luo han guo)

Both stevia and monk fruit are naturally occurring plants containing several compounds that are sweet. One example is rebaudeoside found in stevia. It is 300X sweeter than sugar. Monk fruit is 150-400X sweeter than sugar.

Pros

  • Very small amounts are needed, for example: a few drops of liquid stevia equals a cup of sugar. Click this link for a conversion chart.
  • Packaging: small dropper bottles for liquid and little packets for dry are convenient for travel. 
  • Does not stimulate insulin so it is suitable for diabetics and pre-diabetics.
  • No carbs so good for low-carb diets.

Cons

  • Amounts used have to be carefully adjusted due to the intense sweetness.
  • It cannot be substituted 1:1 for sugar in recipes. Conversion chart.
  • Powdered versions are hydrophilic and will harden from moisture in the air.
  • People who have ragweed allergy may also be allergic to its relative stevia. Also anyone allergic to fruits of the gourd family (pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, and squash) may also be allergic to monk fruit.

Additional notes:

Stevia and monk fruit share similar properties of exceptional sweetness. They are consumed by the microflora of the gut, so they do not stimulate insulin production and have no effect on blood sugar.

Honey

Honey is arguably the oldest sweetener and is highly prized by primitive cultures and modern ones. It is naturally occurring but pasteurization and filtering removes most of the nutritional value from vitamins and minerals, including potassium, zinc, vitamin C, and antioxidants. 

Pros

  • Long a part of human evolution.
  • Metabolically safe when consumed in small amounts.
  • Some people are able to consume honey without much danger of insulin stimulation or increased blood sugar levels.
  • Honey produced in your local area will be taken from the plants that may cause seasonal allergies and even some seasonal asthma. Taking small amounts of this honey (if raw and unfiltered) may improve your resilience and reduce these hay fever-like symptoms. 

Cons

  • If taken in excess, honey will spike insulin and elevate blood sugar.  
  • Stimulation of insulin is exaggerated when consumed with carbohydrates or in combination with sugar.
  • It is important to know your tolerance for blood sugar elevation by using a personal blood sugar meter.
  • A teaspoon of honey contains 64 calories.

Conclusion:

Although people respond metabolically to honey in different ways, it is considered safe in small amounts.

Organic Coconut Sugar

Pros

  • A suitable substitute for cane sugar because it can be used as a 1:1 replacement in traditional recipes.
  • Slightly lower glycemic index than sugar or honey, giving coconut sugar less of a metabolic impact.

Cons

  • No advantage over sugar in terms of calories or nutritional value.

Conclusion:

 OK as a substitute for sugar, but there is no metabolic advantage.

Agave Nectar/Syrup

Agave nectar and agave syrup are the same product. It originates from the agave plant (of tequila fame) but is highly refined.

GI of sugar is about 63

GI of honey is 58

GI of maple syrup is 54

GI of agave 10-27

Pros

  • Lower glycemic index than sugar  

Cons

  • Highly refined so all trace nutrition has been removed.  

Conclusion:

Relatively low glycemic index. No other advantages.

Sugar Alcohols

The term 'alcohol' here indicates a chemical category. It is not the kind of alcohol that causes intoxication.

They all have the same basic impact on your health and metabolism so I've put them together here.

Some of the most common sugar alcohols are:

  • Xylitol
  • Erythritol
  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol
These sugar alcohols are commonly seen in combination with other sweeteners, as seen here:
  • Swerve: Erythritol + oligosaccharides (simple sugar and starch)
  • Pyure: Erythritol + stevia
  • Natvia: Erythritol + stevia
  • Zsweet: Erythritol + stevia
  • Lakanto: Erythritol + monk fruit
  • Norbu: Erythritol + monk fruit

Pros

  • One gram of sugar alcohol will yield only 2.75 calories, compared with 1 gram of sugar which yields 4 calories.  
  • Similar to stevia and monk fruit, these sweeteners are not absorbed into the blood stream.

Cons

  • Side effects include, diarrhea, intestinal gas, and pain due to irritation of the bowel.
  • Canada and US labels warn of the laxative effect.
  • 80% of sugar alcohols are metabolized through the liver and create problems due to liver toxification.
  • Due to the above side effects and the strain of metabolism on the liver, general advice is to limit consumption to a maximum of 50 mg a day.

Conclusion:

A lot of physiological complications make these compounds more trouble than they are worth!

Cane Sugar

It may surprise folks that I would say anything in defense of sugar, but it is worth taking a look. Most sugar currently is produced from beets and corn. I can only recommend Non-GMO cane sugar. Here is a real-life story about the difference:

If you think "sugar is sugar", let me tell you about the experience of some people in my community who routinely put out sugar syrup feeders for the hummingbirds. When they shopped together at a big box store and bought some inexpensive sugar, they found the hummingbirds quit coming to the feeders. Since it happened to several people at once they looked at what could have gone wrong. Wondering if it was the sugar, they returned to the more expensive non-GMO cane sugar to make their hummingbird "nectar".

The birds returned! Smart little hummers.

Pros

  • Makes low fat, high fiber, high carb food taste OK.
  • Familiar flavor, no aftertaste.
  • Easy to measure for recipes.

Cons

  • People of the world consume too much sugar in the form of sweets but also in the form of carbohydrates, breads, pastas, etc.
  • Addicting substance.

Conclusion:

If consumed in small amounts and if the diet is supported by adequate protein and healthy fats, most people have systems that can absorb some cane sugar without metabolic challenge.

Popovers!

As promised, this is a recipe I use for popovers. They are dramatic and can really impress your guests, but they are so simple to make you don’t need visitors to justify the effort. I love them with a glob of butter, but you can fill them with anything you like (psst: it doesn’t even have to be sweet. For instance, they pair well with roast beef au jus).

If you make these the way I describe, they will come out of the oven very tall with that signature cavity in the middle. Many recipes say you don’t need a popover pan, but if you have one, use it. Having the right pan means the popovers will not collapse.

Trying to use a ready mixed flour substitute will work ok but you’ll love them even more if you stock your pantry with rice flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, and a box of corn starch. This mixture yields a crispy outside crust. Once you make them, I think you will want to make them frequently.

POPOVERS – GLUTEN FREE

(No sweeteners needed)
Makes 12 popovers
  • 1-1/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 2/3 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs, room temp

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 12-cup popover pan or muffin pan.

2. In a small pan heat the milk and the butter together. 

3. While the milk and butter heat, mix the potato starch, rice flour, corn starch, xanthan gum, and salt together in a mixer bowl. When the butter has completely melted in the milk and it just begins to boil, add it hot to the flour mixture and blend. Let this sit for 5-10 minutes. As it cools, the dry ingredients will absorb some of the moisture. This produces a smooth batter without the graininess typical of rice flour.

4. While waiting, preheat the popover pan in the oven.

5. When the batter is cool, gradually mix in eggs one at a time.

6. Bring the hot popover pan out of the oven and fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 450 degrees-F for 20 minutes. AT THE END OF 20 MINUTES, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR! TURN THE OVEN OFF AND LET THE POPOVERS SIT IN THE HOT OVEN FOR AN ADDITIONAL 10 MINUTES. The popovers will become crispy on the outside. Yum.  

I hope you are able to use some of this information. If you have comments, please put them in the box below. Also, I want to keep the posts relevant so if you have any suggestions for another post, please put it in the comment box, too. And thanks for reading and joining me on this journey.

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We are strongest and healthiest when we can freely express our heartfelt nature. For over 40 years I have focused on health, first as a nurse, then acupuncturist, and now, through coaching, I help folks find their best health. Join me as we uncover how you can be truly glorious!


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