Sugar Overview: Sugar 101

Author: Dr. Joey Shulman -
In the last 20 years, sugar consumption has increased dramatically with the average yearly consumption per person being approximately 135 pounds! In addition to sugar consumption being a major factor in the dramatic rise we are seeing in childhood obesity, research indicates an over-consumption of white, refined sugar also weakens the immune system, can trigger violent behavior and other behavioral problems, causes dental decay and robs precious vitamins and minerals from a child’s body. Luckily, there are healthier sweet options parents can turn to that won’t take a toll on their children’s health.

Sugar 101
It is easy to tell if a food item contains white sugar. When reading a label, look for words ending in the suffix “ose”, such as high fructose corn syrup, maltose and sucrose. White table sugar is called sucrose and is derived from the sugar cane or the sugar beet. White sugar has been stripped of its precious minerals, vitamins and fiber and contains empty calories. After eating a food product that is filled with white sugar such as a cookies, pop, cakes and sugar cereals, sugar enters the bloodstream at a rushing speed making it very difficult for the body to assimilate. The body reacts to the surge in sugar (glucose) levels in the bloodstream by over-secreting the hormone insulin. Excess insulin secretion leads to blood sugar levels dropping to a critical low, resulting in a state of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). Symptoms associated with hypoglycemia include fatigue, irritability and cravings. To put an end to these uncomfortable symptoms, children and adults often reach for another sugary treat, such as a cookie, pop or sugary coffee, triggering the vicious cycle all over again. The other issue with excess insulin secretion is that is triggers the excess storage of fat leading to weight gain. With grocery stores filled to the brim with sugary treats for kids, restaurants serving super sizes and childhood inactivity, we are producing a nation of overweight and obese children. Consider some of the following sugar facts:

• A 12-ounce can of a typical soft drink, for example, contains about nine teaspoons of refined white sugar.
• Sugar is the number one food additive. It is consumed ten times more than all other 2,600 or so food additives put together. Salt is a distant second.
• A tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar.
• Foods such as breads, soups, cereals, cured meats, hot dogs, lunch meat, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, crackers, mayonnaise, peanut butter, pickles, frozen pizza, canned fruits and vegetables, tomato juice and a host of other products all contain sugar. Check your labels!
• Brown sugar sold in supermarkets is refined white sugar with some molasses put back into it for color and flavor. It is not a health food.

Unrefined Sugars — Natural Sweeteners

When selecting sugars, it is best to select those that have not been refined and therefore contain more fiber and nutrients. Examples include honey and rice syrup. Wildlife Downunder animal biscuits are the perfect option for children as they contain no artificial ingredients and no refined sugars. The natural sweetner options in the Truestar cookie recipes include honey, rice syrup and deliciously appealing spices such as natural vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. The chocolate biscuit contains mouth-watering cocoa which your little one will find hard to resist! In addition to the above natural sweeteners, other options include:

Maple syrup: Some maple syrups contain residue of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. It is, therefore, always best to purchase organic. Substitute 2/3 to 1/4 cup maple syrup for 1 cup white sugar. Maple syrup is a good source of potassium and calcium.

Maple sugar: Maple sugar can be used in a variety of baked goods. Substitute 1 cup of maple sugar for 1 cup of white sugar. Store in a tightly sealed container.

Sucanat: The name, Sucanat, stands for sugar cane natural and is derived from evaporated sugar cane juice. Sucanat contains more vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients than white sugar. It is an all-purpose sweetener for baking, cooking and hot drinks and should be used in a 1 to 1 replacement for white sugar.

Barley malt syrup: Barley malt syrup is half as sweet as white sugar and is best used in combination with other sweeteners. Barley malt syrup contains a variety of trace minerals and vitamins and is a terrific addition to spice cakes, gingerbread, squash and pumpkin breads and bran muffins. 1½ cup of barley malt is equal to ½ cup of white sugar.

Date sugar: Date sugar is ground from dehydrated dates. It is high in fiber and contains folic acid. These tasty granules can be used to make toppings for pies and fruit crisps or for baking breads, cakes and muffins. Date sugar can be used in a 1 to 1 replacement for white sugar. Prior to making a batter, let date sugar dissolve. Store date sugar in a tightly closed jar.

Healthier Sugar Tips
• Maple sweetener (sugar and syrup) can be costly. Purchase bulk quantities to decrease the price. Maple syrup can be stored in the freezer as it does not freeze solid.
• Use sweet spices, such as vanilla and almond extracts, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice to add flavor to cookies.
• For pie fillings, cobblers and crisps, use soaked, pureed or dried fruit for sweetness instead of adding white sugar.
• When substituting liquid sweeteners for dry (e.g. barely malt syrup), you will need to reduce the liquid content

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