Junk Food Disclosed: SWEETENERS

by Jenifer Tull-Gauger

The population is catching on to the fact that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is detrimental to health.  In response, the food industry is starting to promote foods “made with real/cane sugar” as somehow being better, or natural.  But is sugar much better for us?  What’s really so bad about sugar and corn syrup anyway?  They both originally come from nature, in plants harvested from the ground for our use, so they can’t be that bad, can they?  Yes, Devil’s Advocate—that bad and more.

Because I care, I’m telling you what I’ve learned, mostly from Dee McCaffrey’s Plan-D book.  We’ll go from the bad, to the worse, to the really ugly sweeteners.  I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, with a minimum of Dee’s highly scientific organic chemistry terms.

Sugar cane, from the ground, is a nutritious plant, with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibers and phytonutrients.  However, refined sugar (including table, beet, raw, organic, turbinado, and “evaporated cane juice”) has lost its minerals and nutrition in processing.  Our bodies need several minerals (including calcium, phosphorous, and many others) in order to digest sugar.  When we eat processed sugar, our bodies use the calcium and other minerals in our teeth, bones, and tissues in order to digest it.  So not only is it not nutritious, eating sugar actually subtracts things that our bodies need.

Soda with high fructose corn syrup sounding better now?  Think again.  HFCS is made mostly from corn that has been genetically modified so it can live through the application of tons of pesticide.  After harvest, it goes through a complex 15-step process, which actually alters its molecules.  When we ingest HFCS, our bodies do not know how to handle it, so it does not get converted into energy as sugar does.  HFCS gets sent directly to the liver to be stored as fat, (causing fatty liver disease and/or obesity.)

Ready to turn to artificial sweeteners?  Not so fast.  To make all of these, scientists use complex chemical processing.  They contain carcinogens, and are associated with too many health problems to list.  Also, studies show that low- and no-calorie artificial sweeteners actually contribute to weight gain.

I recommend reading labels, avoiding the above, and using healthy sweeteners.  Raw Blue Agave Nectar and Stevia (a very sweet herb) do not cause blood sugar to spike.  Raw Honey is full of nutrients.  Other whole sweeteners: Maple Syrup, Unsulphured Blackstrap Molasses, and Brown Rice Syrup (can be pricey).  Organic Unrefined Whole Cane Sugar (“Rapadura”, or “Sucanat) is a granular sugar substitute that has much of its original nutrition still in tact (tasty, like brown sugar, but doesn’t dissolve well).  To your health!

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