Global sugar consumption has tripled in the last 50 years, thanks largely to vast quantities of ‘hidden sugars’ in cakes, sweets and other convenience foods. We all know that too much refined sugar can make us fat, but did you also know that it’s highly addictive and can be extremely detrimental to our health? In this article you’re going to learn more about the dangers of processed sugars and discover four healthy superfood sugar alternatives that can be easily incorporated into your daily diet.
Processed sugar consumption on the increase
Sugar is found in nearly all processed foods including sauces, soups, bread, meat, salad dressings, soft drinks and even fruit drinks. You need only read the labels on the food products in your kitchen cupboard, to realise that most contain some form of sugar. Manufacturers are increasingly using sugar to prolong shelf life and add cheap bulk, which is why even though fewer of us take sugar in our tea and we sprinkle less of it over our cereals and puddings, we’re actually consuming more of it than ever before.
Why is processed sugar so bad for us?
Table sugar is made from sugar beet and sugar cane – it is a highly refined, white sugar, which has had all of its valuable nutrients, including fibre, minerals, enzymes and vitamins, removed. This type of sugar is also chemically bleached making it difficult for our bodies to digest and has an acidifying effect on our digestive system.
How can I reduce my refined sugar intake?
There are number of natural superfood sweeteners that you can swap for unhealthy, processed and refined sugars:
Stevia is an entirely natural sweetener made from the stevia plant, which grows mostly in Paraguay and Brazil. Usually available in liquid form, it contains no sugar or carbohydrates and boasts a glycemic index of just 0, making it completely safe for diabetics and a useful tool in combatting high blood sugar levels and Candida. Unlike refined sugars stevia is rich in beneficial nutrients including magnesium, chromium, potassium, selenium, niacin, manganese and zinc. Consuming stevia is known to significantly reduce sugar cravings and as it’s free from calories, it’s absolutely ideal for those aiming to lose weight.
Lucuma powder is a natural sweetener made from the Peruvian lucuma fruit, which has long been associated with fertility. Known as ‘Incas Gold’, lucuma has an exceptionally high nutritional value, boasts powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is crammed with antioxidants, which strengthen our immune system, help heal wounds and prevent our skin from aging. Lucuma powder also has a low glycemic value and is a particularly suitable sugar replacement for diabetics. In addition, lucuma is a valuable source of carbohydrates, fibre and B vitamins, which are crucial for healthy bowel movements, is rich in niacin, which helps prevent heart disease and contains iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorous, all required for healthy cell function.
Mesquite powder is a temptingly sweet, natural sweetener prepared from the beans of the Mexican mesquite tree, often referred to as the ‘Tree of Life’. It has an incredibly high nutritional value, which boosts our immune system and, as it scores low on the glycemic index, actively balances our blood sugar levels. Suitable for diabetics, mesquite is also packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals (including magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc), amino acids and antioxidants that you won’t find in processed sugars. It’s rich in the healthy sugar, isorhamnetin-3-diglucoside for example, which helps protect our liver and also contains lysine, which helps fight viral infections (including herpes and shingles). Not only that, mesquite contains serotonin, which helps combat depression, apigenin, which boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antibacterial and antiviral properties, triptamine, known for its antibacterial effect and quercetin, which can help prevent diabetes.
Xylitol is made from natural fibres found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. This low calorie alternative to table sugar was first discovered in the late 19th century. Thanks to its low glycemic index rating, which means that it is absorbed more slowly than sugar and doesn’t contribute to high blood sugar levels or the hyperglycaemia caused by insufficient insulin response, it rapidly became a popular sweetener for diabetics. It’s also beneficial for those suffering from metabolic syndrome, a common disorder that includes insulin resistance, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and an increased risk of blood clots. Xylitol is additionally known for its unique, ‘tooth friendly’ qualities. Studies in Finland in the 1970s demonstrated that those chewing xylitol gum suffered from less decayed, missing, or filled teeth than those chewing sucrose gum. Recent research also concludes that xylitol has a plaque-reducing effect and may help prevent osteoporosis and a variety of infections including Candida.