By now, we've all heard the flap about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). And if you're smart you have realized that mostly anything that is canned, bottled, packages, or pre-made includes HFCS, and you are limiting your intake of it.
You've also probably heard about agave nectar or agave syrup. And, you have most likely heard it touted as "natural," "healthy," or "low-glycemic." Well, I'm here to tell you that none of that is true. Agave, like HFCS, is highly processed and anything but good for us. You can read an excellent article about agave written by Sally Fallon and Rami Nagel here: http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-foods/agave-nectar-worse-than-we-thought
High fuctose corn syrup generally has a fructose level of 55%, which is high. But agave nectar/syrup can have fructose levels anywhere between 70%-95%, which is astronomical.
Why should we care about sugar and fructose levels? Because fructose goes directly into the blood stream as well as the liver for processing. This is what spikes blood sugar levels, gives a quick high, then dissipates and leaves you feeling tired and sluggish. High levels of blood sugar is also part of what's causing the increasing rates of illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, candida, inflammation, and overall fatigue in Americans.
As I said earlier, if you eat packaged, jarred, or canned foods you're most likely eating HFCS or some other type of sugar because it's a cheap preservative - if you don't believe me start reading labels next time you go to the grocery store.
The best solution is to stop eating sugar all together. I know, I know, this is hard. I've removed all sugar, except honey which I eat occasionally, from my own diet and it wasn't easy at first. Sugar can become an addiction, like smoking or drinking, and removing it from your diet is going to make you feel a little crummy for a few days. But if you can do it - and you can - I believe you'll feel better for it. You'll stop craving sugar, sugary snacks and drinks, and instead your body will crave naturally sweet foods like fruit and vegetables.
For those of us with Crohn's or Colitis, it may even help to reduce the inflammation in our colon's and help to calm down your gut - it has with mine.
But, if you just need a little sugar in your life here are my top 5 picks for truly natural sweeteners:
1. Raw honey: I love this in tea and coffee or chai. You can bake with it but you'll have to alter your recipe a bit - use 1/2 c honey for every 1 c granulated sugar, then reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
2. Coconut Sugar: Also a good sweetener for drinks; and, can be used as a 1:1 replacement in recipes for sugar.
3. Maple Syrup: Grades B or C are the least refined and best healthwise. If you want to bake with it use the same guidelines as for honey.
4. Dates or Date Sugar: 5.** Stevia:** I only use this when I can find it in a natural form which will be green or brown. If it's pure white it has been processed, and most likely overly so, and I don't trust that it's not going to act much like HFCS or Agave.
Oh, and don't be fooled by sugar substitutes, they're even worse for you than HFCS or Agave, but that's a discussion for another blog. Basically, if a food says, "light" or "diet" on the label it most like contains a sugar substitute, so pass it by and either buy the non-diet version or don't buy it at all.