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GUIDE TO NATURAL SWEETENERS

Sweets are a comfort food and most of us are very reluctant to give them up. However, we can deter some of the affects of refined sugar by eating less and using natural sweeteners. The average American consumes an astounding two pounds of sugar each week, which is not surprising considering that highly refined sugars in the forms of sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (corn sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup are being processed into so many foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, ketchup, mayonnaise, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, and a plethora of microwave meals.

Natural Sweeteners Versus Refined Sugar

Sugars are classified as either simple or complex carbohydrates. Refined sugars such as white, brown, and turbinado sugars, and the unrefined simple sugars, such as fruit sweeteners and concentrated fruit juices, are all simple carbohydrates. The grain syrups: barley malt and brown rice syrup, as well as molasses, maple syrup and the granular sweeteners made from dehydrated brown rice syrup, all contain complex carbohydrates besides some simple sugars.

Complex carbohydrates are a string of simple sugars strung together that must be broken back down into simple sugars before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream; whereas simple sugars can go directly into the bloodstream. An influx of sugar into the blood stream upsets the body's blood sugar balance, triggering the release of insulin, which the body uses to keep blood sugar at a safe and constant level. Insulin also promotes the storage of fat, so when you eat sweets high in sugar and fat, you're making way for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, both of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. Complex carbohydrates tend to be absorbed more slowly, lessening the impact on blood sugar levels.

Refined sugars have been stripped of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that were originally present before processing. White sugar is 99.9 percent sucrose, and brown and turbinado are 96 percent sucrose. Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses and/or caramel coloring added. Turbinado sugar, also called raw sugar, is slightly less refined and contains a trace amount of a few minerals.

Consequently, consuming large amounts of refined sugars places an extra burden on the body to supply the nutrients, specifically the B vitamins, chromium, magnesium, and zinc, needed to convert glucose (blood sugar) into energy. According to USDA biochemist Richard Anderson, refined sugar may also impair the absorption of trace minerals like copper and chromium present in some of the other foods we have eaten.

Refined simple sugars also have an impact on brain chemistry. They raise serotonin levels, which can leave you feeling drowsy. However, the unrefined simple fruit sweeteners have less impact on brain chemistry because they are high in the sugar fructose, which does not affect serotonin levels.

Choosing natural sweeteners and reading labels before buying a product will help you reduce your consumption of refined sugar. Natural sweeteners retain most of their vitamins and minerals, and many contain complex carbohydrates. Below is a list and brief description of some of the natural sweeteners available.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE -->Written by: John Buscher


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