I’m just a adding a footnote to the previous sugar post as a quick response to many interesting comments about the difficulties of giving up sugar completely and what to use instead. Natural sweeteners being the option.

In an ideal world we would all be ‘added sugar’ free and ‘naturally occurring sugar’ all the way. I love many sweet things but have trained myself to think of them as treats rather than the norm. I come from a generation brought up on dinner and a pudding. There was always a pudding…something sweet after the savoury. These days, as many of you will know, I fall on a dark sumptuous chocolate (from Paul A Young invariably) and revel in that. My days of jam roly-poly and treacle sponge are over. Not because I’m so saintly and marvellous, far from it,  simply because I don’t live the sort of life that would burn that kind of energy anymore (poor old thing)!…and, frankly, these were always made by The Aunt or The Mother neither of whom are within striking distance for them to indulge me!

I’m so anti diets as a form of healthy living that I could commit a crime. It’s a life style change. And, as it’s going to be the way you are going to live for the rest of your healthy life, build it slowly but surely and, armed with information and knowledge, create a sustainable and individually tailored healthy way of eating, drinking, exercising and living!

I agree with comments saying that our first step has to be the label reading element. Sugar is added to so many products we buy in the stores that it is mind-boggling. So let’s try to not buy the tins and packaged food that has all the sugar (and salt) added. Easier said that done, I realise, as it is so prevalent (and often the alternatives are much, much more expensive) but we have to try, right?

As we are addicted to sugar, by all research and accounts, I’d say going cold turkey and not eating a single molecule of the stuff is going to be pretty hard for most of us. This brings us back to natural sweeteners. Many ‘natural’ sweeteners actually have been produced with an element of processing or unnatural additions, so look for this on the label. Some products are also combined with sugar alcohols (pitched to you as ‘naturally occurring’) like the popular bulking agent erythritol (in loads of products like chewing gum and is often combined with stevia) or new lab created varieties of scary sugariness like the dodgy sounding crystalline fructose (completely unnatural and popular in beverages). Obviously, the more actually natural the better! Otherwise it’s a waste of effort…

There are a gazillion sites on the internet either extolling or vilifying the virtues of each and every one of these sweeteners. Some fare better than others. As ever and always, when we are talking about such a vital and fundamental element of your health, research and arm yourself with as many non-partisan facts as possible! Some initial factors of all the information I’ve looked at so far is that you will have to look out for certain things when making your choices:

Nutritional element. This is key as we are trying to limit the damage and ease ourselves away from sweet tasting foods. Dark natural sweeteners like black strap molasses have lots of minerals (including selenium) but might cause a spike in blood sugar levels whereas agave will not but has heaps more calories. Some of these products have other value like anti-inflammatory or  anti-fatigue properties and so on…ALSO just because a product occurs naturally in plants doesn’t mean you should just accept it as healthy. Erythritol, for instance, occurs naturally in some fruits but it isn’t as sweet as sugar and so is often used in conjunction with another sweeter substance like stevia. It also is championed for its lack of calories, kindness to teeth and because it doesn’t affect blood sugar…well, that’s nice but these are empty calories that also cause bloating, upset stomachs and diarrhea (hence the ‘laxative’ warning on sugar free sweets).

Taste. All these products have different baseline tastes (and behave differently when baked) so consider carefully what you want the sweetener for. Darker syrups (brown rice, barley), jaggery and molasses tend to work well with strong flavours like coffee or curries, for example, but might give your baked products a strange (not unpleasant) aftertaste. Stevia and agave will be better for these, but really it comes down to personal taste, as ever…

Sustainability. Whilst we are being so good we might as well throw another boulder on our globally responsible shoulders. Many of these sweeteners – to be truly natural – are not very commercially viable so beware that corners might get cut. Agave is a good example. Yes, it’s vegan and ancient but the plant takes 7 – 10 years to mature and then is fully harvested. Maple syrup is hugely time consuming to produce etc…

What I’m saying is that you need to be aware of all the factors of each of the sweet product you choose so you can adjust accordingly. Balance, moderation and ultimately diminishing the use to the least possible amount…we are not machines after all…

More anon on this subject no doubt…!


3 thoughts on “Sugar…again…”

  1. I like you balanced comments and explanations, seems reasonable and as I never really appreciated the added sugar to replace taste in low fat will watch for that.

  2. Mathew, you are brilliant, I love the way you write and what you say, you are also a living testament to the anti-ageing properties of correct nutrition (unless there is an ageing portrait in your attic!)
    Witty, & intelligent I could read you all day long!

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