The Sweet Truth

“Is sugar really all that bad for me?” Let me break it down for you. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news is, yes, sugar may be the biggest contributor to chronic diseases in America, especially heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Sugar is the leading culprit of the global obesity epidemic. It is not only a serious drain on our health, but also environmentally destructive. Sugarcane production is destroying whole forests. And our favorite sweet, white powder is highly addictive. That’s why soda and snack-food companies love to pour some sugar on you!

“But I only buy products with organic evaporated cane juice, brown sugar or sugar-in-the-raw.” Friend, the names of these products are marketing ploys, ones I too once fell for. Organic evaporated cane juice is simply fancy white sugar. It’s still highly processed, which means it is completely stripped of its nutrients and fiber, resulting in a product that is 99% sucrose. Even brown sugar is just processed white sugar that has molasses added back into it to give it color and moisture.

“But I’m an athlete so I don’t have to worry about calories.” Time and again, I hear my active friends express such a mentality. Sugary products like sports drinks and energy bars are highly marketed to us runners who love a quick fuel fix. Having a high metabolism is not just a blessing but a curse. A curse because you’re less likely to think twice about finishing off that bag of chewy chocolate chip cookies. As an athlete you need to be eating nutrient-dense, calorie-rich foods, not empty calories. An active person requires even more antioxidant-rich foods than a sedentary person to recover from the amount of free radicals in the bloodstream after a hard workout (more on that in a later post). 

And now for the good news:

You can still get your sweet fix from a variety of healthier alternatives to white sugar/brown sugar/sugar-in-the-raw/cane sugar (all the same thing). I say “healthier” instead of “healthy” because these sweeteners are not health foods and should be consumed in moderation. Natural sugar still causes a blood-sugar spike and crash that will leave you feeling drained and probably a bit cranky…and who wants to be around a cranky crank? It’s best to consume sweets in small quantities after a meal of complex carbs, protein and healthy fat.

Here’s a list of stellar sweeteners that can be easily swapped into your favorite recipes:

  • Coconut sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Maple crystals or syrup
  • Raw agave (the consensus is still out on agave)
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Fruit juice
  • Mashed banana
  • Raw honey

I too have a sweet tooth and I never say no to chocolate. Life just wouldn’t be the same without chocolate chip cookies. But instead of filling up on packaged snacks and sugary drinks indulge in homemade goodies, so that you, not a food scientist, get to decide what goes into it.

And now for some seriously good news:

I’m working on a peanut-butter-and-honey chocolate-chip-cookie recipe that will make you a very happy soul.

Learn more:

The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food, Michael Moss, NY Times 

Is Sugar Toxic?, Gary Taubes, NY Times

78 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health, Before It’s News

Toxic Truth, 60 Minutes


11 Responses to “The Sweet Truth”

  1. Whitney says:

    I can’t wait for the cookie recipe :)

  2. Caren says:

    grt. post —will be looking for some of these alternative sweeteners for my recipes. Is there any such thing as a healthier choc. chip??

    • freshabits says:

      Dark chocolate chips are the healthier option! They have less sugar and more antioxidant rich cocoa. Yum!

  3. Kimberly says:

    What is your opinion on fruit? I’m a fruit addict, a two-or-three apples at a time kind of girl, and sometimes I feel like it has to be just as bad…

    • freshabits says:

      Hi Kimberly – Whole fruit is obviously a healthier option than a cookie but it still causes a blood sugar spike. Its best to consume fruit in conjunction with protein and fat. I like apples with almond butter or a slice of cheese. Fruit juice is a bigger concern because there’s no fiber to slow it’s absorption into the blood stream. Berries are a better option over bananas and apples because they have a lower glycemic index. And they’re in season right now! :)

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