“Sugar and spice and all things nice”. This was my first memory of sugary foods, and my personal weakness is chocolate ice cream. As kids, we love the idea (and taste) of all things sweet. However, as we grow older, we start to discover the cumulative effects of sugar to our health at all ages. Knowingly it is impossible to completely cut off sugar in our lives, but we can always start with removing the obviously bad ones.
Before the 16th century, only the rich can afford sugar. I used to work for the then largest sugar trader in the world (sell sugar globally to make rum). Whether you are eating a sweet or drinking rum, sugar’s effect is like cocaine, making you crave for more. However, there is no nutritional value in sugar, except fructose and glucose.
Glucose, which mainly comes from carbohydrates, is metabolized by our cells and turned into energy, but fructose (from fruits, honey and agave) is exclusively processed by the liver to turn to glucose before being transported into bloodstream. Sucrose, which is made up of both glucose and fructose, is basically table sugar.
The following are the key problems found with long term consumption of sugar:
Being an occasional baker myself, I try to find better alternatives, and I usually cut my sugar when I cook. There are many types of sugar out there, so let me try and summarise them for you:
Sugars containing fructose and glucose: blackstrap molasses, brown sugar, cane sugar, castor sugar, coconut sugar, demerara sugar, golden syrup, honey, icing sugar, maple syrup, muscovado sugar, raw sugar, treacle sugar, yellow sugar.
Sugars with glucose, or combined with non-fructose: brown rice syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, lactose, malt syrup, rice syrup.
Personally I use coconut sugar to cook and to substitute brown sugar when baking. It has the same calories as brown sugar, but a low glycemic index of 35 (half of regular sugar), which means fewer blood sugar spikes. I sometimes also use xylitol to substitute castor sugar. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which has a glycemic of 7-13 and about 30% fewer calories to white sugar.
If you can, try to reduce fructose which has a longer term damage to your health. However, you do not need to cut out fruits altogether, as the fibre in fruits provide other nutritional benefits. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (which is made from corn starch through industrialization process), and be aware of hidden sugar in processed foods, carbonated drinks etc.