All things SUGAR! Weeeeeeeee. <- I feel like I can’t talk about sugar without adding that.
First things first, all sugar is a form of carbohydrates and all carbohydrates eventually break down to single sugars once ingested, whether its through the liver or digestive tract. Sugar in it’s simplest form will not need to be broken down since it’s already in it’s simplest form. Whereas something like brown rice (a complex carb – meaning multiple chains of sugar molecules) will be broken down through the various stages of digestion. Things like fruit, need to be sent to the liver to be converted into glucose. But I won’t get too far into that because it’s not vital to the point I’ll be getting to.
So here’s what matters. Things like:
Are all forms of sugar. The major differences are that they have different micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and different rates at which they elevate blood sugar. For example, agave & coconut sugar are lower on the glycemic index, which means they will not spike blood sugar as quickly as let’s say cane sugar or honey.
The most important thing here- they all contain calories and they are SUPER easy to over consume. So if you are consuming any of these, be very mindful of your portions. For example, maple syrup contains 210 calories & 53g carb per 1/4 cup. 1/4 cup isn’t that much especially if you are putting it on your pancakes. I’m NOT saying it’s bad, I prefer real maple syrup over any other pancake syrup and use it myself but it’s just important to be mindful of your portion when you do use it because it adds up quickly!
Now, some people will argue that honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave etc are ‘healthier’ than regular sugar. There is some truth to this in the sense that they do provide vitamins and minerals and are from natural sources. However, that doesn’t mean the calories don’t count. Also, you need a lot of each to actually reap the benefits of the micronutrients they provide & for the calories and carbs that would come along with that, I wouldn’t say it’s an actual benefit. You should be more focused on getting micronutrients through veggies, complex carbs, meats, dairy and a high quality multi vitamin.
Moving on to artificial sweeteners:
Sugar free syrup
Sweet n Low
These are all zero calorie non nutritive sweeteners, meaning they provide no nutritional value. Again, this doesn’t mean they are ‘bad’ they just don’t provide any micronutrients or macronutrients. There is controversy surrounding these and I’ve read plenty of studies that go either way. I’m very neutral on them. I don’t think they are good but I don’t think they are bad. I do believe they are a great alternative for those who are looking to save some calories from real sugar but I don’t believe they are beneficial in excess.
Stevia and Monk fruit are definitely more favored as of recently because they come from natural sources. However, even through they derive from natural sources, they are still processed to some degree. Again, not good or bad, just information.
Some people do have adverse effects to some non nutritive sweeteners such as headaches, bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping etc. Obviously not a good choice for people that experience those things!
Even if you aren’t worried about calories, blood sugar spikes can be a result of any type of real sugar but that all depends what else you are ingesting it with. Remember when I talked about balancing your meals? For example, if you have a little honey in your oatmeal and eggs on the side- the complex carbs from the oats & protein/fats from the eggs will slow absorption/digestion and rate prevent blood sugar to be elevated too quickly from the honey. However, if you’re having just pancakes with maple syrup, expect to have a big spike followed by a big crash because that is simple carbs + simple carbs and no protein or fats to slow down the release of glucose into the blood stream!
AT THE END OF THE DAY. Use your best judgement for your goals. I personally enjoy honey or maple syrup in my oatmeal & stevia in my coffee. Why? Because I typically have my coffee by itself, so I want to save myself from a blood sugar spike. As far as the honey/maple syrup goes, I enjoy the taste & don’t need much of it. I’m much more of a ‘real food’ type of person and my palate has definitely changed when it comes to artificial sweeteners (they just make things taste super fake to me now), so I choose not to use them much.
Sugar isn’t inherently fattening BUT it is easy to over consume therefore putting you in a calorie surplus, which does lead to weight gain. This does NOT mean eliminate it, that’s not sustainable. Instead, focus less on eliminating sugar and MORE on eating wholesome, minimally processed foods, that’ll decrease your sugar intake naturally.
Fruit is high in sugar but that doesn’t make it bad. Concentrate on eating more vegetables than fruits. Both have fiber and micronutrients that your body needs to thrive!
EVERYTHING IN MODERATION. You want an ice cream cone? Go get one. Enjoy it, move on : )