Not all Natural Sugars are Equal

Sugar is the new tobacco and sugar free-recipes, books and cafes are springing up everywhere. I’ve been sugar free for over 30 years since I trained as a nutritional therapist in the 1980’s so I’m thrilled to see the changes taking place. What worries me is that not all the changes are good ones.

Since cutting out sugar I’ve used dates as a sweetener in my recipe books and at home. Dates are a natural wholefood, full of fibre, vitamins and minerals with nothing added or taken away and this is how we need to receive our sweetness. I occasionally use a tablespoon of honey and even more occasionally a fraction of a teaspoon of stevia if extra sweetness is needed, but these amounts are always small.

Nowadays I so often see recipes claiming to be sugar-free that are actually full of sugar. Sugar is made from sugar beet or sugar cane and is a natural food if we eat it in that form. It’s when we strip the fibre and vitamins and minerals out that we can eat large amounts of an over processed sweetener that enters our body far too quickly causing health problems. Sugar can also be made from other sweet carbohydrate foods such as fruit, vegetables or coconut and these are the products that are being sold as healthy sugar alternatives and are often being used like for like to replace sugar in recipes. In the front of my latest book ‘Easy Tasty Healthy’ I write extensively about sugar and sugar replacers and they are not always as healthy as they seem.

Just recently a friend and I went to a sugar-free café for a meal and having been messed about over the service we were presented with a sugar-free brownie with our drinks as a peace offering. So I ate half a chocolate brownie sweetened with a supposedly healthy sugar alternative. Within half an hour my blood sugar had peaked then taken a nose dive and I was left feeling muzzy headed for the rest of the morning. I was shocked as I’m normally OK with a little sugar especially if I’ve eaten a good meal, as we had. It confirmed my suspicions though, that changing the sugar content of recipes with an equal amount of supposedly healthy sugar-free alternatives can be just as damaging to our health as the much cheaper white sugar version.