Is Natural Sugar Healthy?

Is Natural Sugar Healthy?

We’ve known for a long time that sugar is not something anyone should eat in large quantities. High levels of sugar consumption have always been linked to obesity and diabetes. Yet over the years, instead of taming our sweet tooth, we started looking at sugar alternatives.

First came artificial sugars. The use of saccharine and aspartame because widespread in diet sodas and all kinds of sweets and baked goods. They were marketed as a healthy alternative to processed sugar for everyone – not just diabetics. Unfortunately, over the years, we have found that artificial, chemically-created sugars may cause more physical damage than first realized.

The current trend is natural sugars, which can come in the form of agave nectar, honey, maple sugar or stevia. Although they sound good, the question is: Are they really good and are they really safe? Let’s take a look:

Agave Nectar: Often sold as an organic, raw, natural sugar with a low glycemic index rating, agave nectar is flying off the shelf. This is unfortunate, as agave nectar is probably the most un-natural, highly processed “healthy” sugar being sold these days. The process begins with agave starch that is subjected to enzymes and a chemical process that turns the starch into high-fructose syrup. It’s made exactly like high fructose corn syrup but with a different base ingredient. And it’s higher in fructose than HCFS!

Honey: The cute little bear at the grocery store contains honey and that’s all natural right? Unfortunately, no. Recent tests have shown that the “honey” at the grocery store has been so processed it’s no longer even considered real honey! And some – from China – even contain illegal antibiotics.

Raw, unprocessed honey is actually very healthy – it contains anti-microbial, anti-viral and antibiotic compounds. It also contains phytonutrients that help your body fight off illnesses and can even help you reduce allergy symptoms. Unfortunately, it also has a higher fructose level, so any honey should be used as a special treat – especially for diabetics whose blood sugar may react badly to it.

Maple Syrup: Real maple syrup is also very healthy. It contains minerals, antioxidants and zinc. However, it is very high in sucrose, so minimal use is also recommended, especially for diabetics.

It’s important to find REAL maple syrup though. If the label states it’s maple-flavored, put it back.

Stevia: Stevia is probably the best sweetener to use if you wish to use it on a regular basis. This sweetener, made from a plant, is 200 to 300 times as sweet as sugar. It has zero calories and has been shown to have no impact on blood sugar levels.

However, this does not mean stevia is without controversy. The biggest complaint is that almost all readily available stevia products are highly processed. This means very little of the original plant remains and they contain additional ingredients such as glycerine, erithritol, xylitol, dextrose and “natural” flavorings and no one really knows what those are.

Your best bet is to find a 100% pure stevia product or simply purchase a stevia plant.