As you may have noticed, I don’t use refined sugar in my recipes. There are various reasons why and I will gladly explain them to you :-)
Unlike fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals we need no sugar for a healthy diet. Sure, it is also found in fruit and vegetables, but that’s natural sugar and there is no problem with that. It’s the sugar we use for cooking and baking, in coffee, tea, candy etc. that harms us.
This sugar is refined, which means pure and isolated.
And that’s the core of the problem: The refined sugar doesn’t contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and trace elements anymore that were present in the original sugar beet or sugar cane. Therefore our body has nothing to do and the sugar rushes directly into the bloodstream. At the same time the hormone insulin is produced by the pancreas, firstly to reduce the blood sugar levels by transporting the sugar from the blood into the cells to give them energy, and secondly it activates the happiness hormone serotonin.
So we’re immediately happy and have more energy. Isn’t that great?
But unfortunately only for a short time. Actually our body expected that the sugar also brought vitamins, fiber and minerals which it needs urgently. Since it didn’t get any of them (or only as little as was included in the cookie we ate), it quickly demands more, because it feels undernourished. This creates constant hunger or cravings, we eat and eat and are never satisfied. This phenomenon is utilized by the food industry since they use large amounts of sugar in all of their products (eg pizza, sausage, cheese, etc.), which makes us ask for more and more.
And there begins the next problem: we take in a lot more sugar than we need (also, we often do not know that it’s inside), which makes the liver store sugar as glycogen for later and if it has no more capacity it converts sugar into fat and stores it in fat depots in the body. So on the one hand we gain weight and on the other hand we overload the liver which then has no more capacity to do their actual task, detoxifying the body. In addition, the insulin levels permanently rocket high and then drop down again really quickly, which causes additional stress.
All of this in medium to long term, makes us listless, tired and depressed, or even hyperactive (often observed in children who often eat much more sweets). I have experienced this dull, depressed feeling myself in a very long stressful phase in which I ate loads of sweets and didn’t pay attention to what I was eating. And I don’t want to go there again.
That’s why I don’t use refined sugar at home anymore and I don’t eat Fast Food or industrialized Food. Sure, if you are traveling or invited, that’s difficult or not doable, but it is not a permanent condition so that’s OK.
The advantages of natural sugar are that the vitamins, minerals and fiber that accompany the sugar and make the body work to get to the sugar. Thus it is delivered slow and steady into the blood, causing the insulin levels do not fluctuate so much. They also ensure that we are full faster and longer, because the body has what it needs. Did you recognize that about 1-2 hours after a large Bic Mac menu you already get hungry again? -> wholemeal bread, brown rice, vegetables and fruits keep you full much longer and don’t make you feel tired and dull after eating.
Many think of sugar only when it comes to sweets, but it of course also includes the isolated carbohydrates in white bread, pasta, polished rice, etc., which also bring (due to the high comminution of the grain, for example in white flour without shell) little nutrients and make you hungry again quickly.
Therefore I always choose the whole grain version (e.g. bread, rice, pasta, etc.) and use alternatives for sweetening. These alternatives I want to show you to today:
- Maple syrup: tastes malty and caramel-like, is rich in minerals (depending on soil) and tastes great on pancakes or ice cream. It comes in three intensity levels A, B, C and you can replace 100g sugar 75g of maple syrup in recipes.
- Dates: My no. 1 sweetener. You can use it in your muesli or mix it with a little bit of water to use it as a puree in all kinds of recipes. They contain a lot of potassium, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B3, B5 and vitamin C and allow the blood sugar levels rise very slowly. I like medjool dates the most since they are very juicy but also more expensive. But normal dates soaked in some water will do the same job
- Fruit syrups: for example, Agave syrup, apple syrup, etc. They are sweeter than sugar, because they contain a lot of fructose (but healthy natural fruit sugar/ fructose, not the isolated, which you can buy). They also contain a lot of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Best to use syrups for baking, muesli or yoghurt.
- Honey: is (also due to the fructose) sweeter than sugar, contains many important enzymes and organic acids and is said to have a healing effect. It is best suited for sweetening tea or yogurt. In baking, it retains its characteristic flavor.
- Coconut blossom sugar: tastes nice and caramel-like and has a low glycemic index (GI), so the blood sugar level rises much more slowly and evenly. This makes it also suitable for diabetics. In addition, it contains many minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, sulfur, and copper. Definitely one of my favorites! Some of you may have already eaten it in Thailand because it is traditionally used for Pad Thai.
- Stevia: is derived from a South American plant and contains no calories, is 300 times sweeter than sugar but has no effect on insulin levels, which is why it is very popular with diabetics. It has, however, unfortunately a strong aftertaste that I do not like. Therefore, I don’t use stevia.
- Whole Cane Sugar: is dark brown, has a caramel-like taste and contains many vitamins (the entire vitamin B complex!) and minerals. Perfect for baking, in tea and for savory dark sauces.
- Xylitol: has a low GI, approximately the same sweetness and a very similar taste as table sugar but only half the calories and it even protects (in contrast to all other sugar alternatives mentioned) against caries. Therefore, it is also often used in dental chewing gum. You can use it just like table sugar (for baking, cooking, in coffee, etc.). The important thing is that you don’t overdo it at the beginning, because xylitol has, if you are not used to it, a laxative effect. The rule of thumb is: not more than 0.5 g / kg body weight
- Sugar beet syrup (molasses): tastes strong and malty and contains much iron and magnesium. It is, for example, super to refine sauces, but also pure on bread or pancakes
I hope I was able to give you an overview and make you a little smarter :-)
Give it a try!
Best wishes and a nice, sunny day,