Name that movie!
After my smoothie post, my friend commented that I pay a lot of attention to the amount of sugar in things and it reminded me that I wanted to look into sugar a little bit more. I doubt I’m the only one who’s noticed all sorts of “healthier” new sweeteners popping up on the market and I wanted to see if there is any weight to their claims.
It seems like confusion is everywhere, not just with me. I found many conflicting reports, as is probably true on any controversial topic, but this article seemed pretty straightforward. Here are some highlights:
Regular molasses and pure maple syrup provide small amounts of vitamins and minerals, making them slightly better choices than white sugar (sucrose, or table sugar) and corn syrup, which lack nutrients, other than the carbohydrates they provide. Blackstrap molasses, which is strong-tasting, is the only sweetener with significant levels of nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, selenium, and manganese.
Dark honey contains more antioxidants to protect cells. Research suggests that honey enhances the growth and activity of the good bacteria found in fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt), which may offer health benefits, such as aiding digestion and supporting the immune system.
While molasses, maple syrup, and honey offer nutritional advantages, they, like table sugar, contain simple carbohydrates, which are quickly metabolized, regardless of the source. The real issue is the total amount of sugar children consume, not the type.
So what about evaporated cane juice? This article spoke to that.
Advertisers try to make it sound as if these less-refined sugars are also more nutritious than regular white sugar. They claim that they retain more of the nutrients from the original plant. And, technically, that may be true. But sugar cane doesn’t have many nutrients to start out with. Any traces that remain in raw sugar are so trivial, they can barely be measured.
Nutritionally speaking, there really is no meaningful difference between any of these kinds of sugar. Although some are definitely less processed, they all provide the same number of calories, and when it comes to digestion and metabolism, your body cannot tell the difference.
In other words, if you prefer a less-processed product (and you don’t mind the premium price), raw sugar or evaporated cane juice is great. But you’d want to limit your intake of these natural sugars exactly the way you would limit your intake of refined white sugar.
And what about agave, the newest fad sweetener?
Although it’s fast becoming the preferred sweetener for health-conscious consumers and natural cooks, the truth is that agave is processed just like other sugars — and is no better for you than other sugars. And don’t be dazzled by the word “natural”; U.S. food regulators do not legally define the term, so it’s left up to manufacturers.
The bottom line is that refined agave sweeteners are not inherently healthier than sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, or any other sweetener. Nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (Karo) syrup. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally.
What a mess, I tell you what. Maybe we should just avoid it altogether! Oh if only I had that kind of willpower. Today is day #74 of my 90 day dessert fast, but my record is not 100% clean…