I don’t know about you but of late, I have been seeing way too many sugar debates – sugar substitutes, ‘real’ sugar, ‘false sugar’, white sugar, brown sugar, corn sugar…The list goes on.
Today, I am just going to explore what I am seeing and what I should be consuming. While I doubt I am going to come up with an answer, I hope to be a little more well-informed. If that’s your goal too, join me on the journey.
In Well+Good, a recent article addresses the on-going sugar substitutes debate. In the article, the author tells us about ‘erythritol’ – that belongs to a ‘category of carbohydrates called “sugar alcohols,” which are either extracted from plants or manufactured from starches’. According to the author, sugar alcohols sweeten the deal because they contain less calories but can be stressful on the GI system because they dont digest the same way as other sugars do.
The good news is that some of these sugars are plant-based – At least, they are natural!
It is common knowledge, however that the government has approved not only natural but also artificial sweeteners. Most of us are familiar with at least a few of them - Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), Saccharin (Sweet N Low), Sucralose (Splenda), Acesulfame K (used in food and beverages) and Neotame (used in soft drinks and low-calorie food).
So, there are natural and artificial sweeteners. And along with that, rumors about artificial sweeteners causing cancer. We’ve all heard that, right?
Like that’s not distressing enough, we now have corn sugar thrown in the mix. So, what about corn sugar?
What I remember about corn sugar is a recent commercial: ‘Corn sugar or cane sugar. Sugar is sugar. Your body can’t tell the difference!’.
Oblivion is king. All along, I thought corn sugar is probably a different kind of sugar – probably healthier?
Little did I know that corn sugar is pretty much what we know as high-fructose corn syrup! Uh-Oh. So much for it being such a Sweet Surprise! In 2010, the Corn Refiners Association submitted an application to the FDA seeking approval to change the labeling of high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar” (which was supposedly denied).
Honestly, for me, this is all semantics. As consumers, all we are interested in is the truth – What sugar should we consume on a regular basis? Is corn sugar better, worse, or the equal of cane sugar? Are they nutritionally the same?
I remember a CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta feature (a few years ago) on high fructose corn syrup where he suggested that pretty much most processed food contains this product (and even the animals we rear for food are fed corn), which has led to obesity and diabetes issues amongst populations that consume more processed food. So, should we attempt to control our corn-sugar intake like we do processed foods?
As I continued to do my research on this topic this morning, debating in my head which sugar I should choose to keep at home, I came across something even more startling – A 60-minute ‘overtime’ feature on ‘Sugar as a Toxin’. According to this news clip, Dr. Robert Lustig, a California pediatric endocrinologist believes the consumption of added sugars has plunged America into a public health crisis. In his much-watched online lecture, ‘Sugar – The Bitter Truth’, Lustig declares a war on sugar and tells viewers about not only table sugar, honey, syrup, sugary drinks and desserts, but also just about every processed food where sugar is often hidden: yogurts and sauces, bread, ketchup, cereals, and even peanut butter.
So, does that mean cutting out on sugar completely?
As would be expected, the sugar industry spokespersons tell a different story. As quoted in a recent article on Oregon Live:
“Almost every cell in the body uses glucose for energy,” said Adam Fox of the Sugar Association. “And cancer cells also use glucose to grow. That does not especially implicate sugar, because rice, pasta, potatoes, virtually any carbohydrate out there, breaks down into glucose. There’s no reason for the sugar molecule to be pointed at as some special problem.”
For a layperson, so many different varieties of sugar and so many different opinions on consumption can be confusing. With having processed food all around us – so cheap and so accessible – most of us are now hard-wired to crave sugar. Is it even possible to go cold turkey?
In 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) ‘recommended limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup.’
So, choosing the middle-ground and consuming sugar in moderation seems to be the way to go?
Maybe. Maybe not. Tell me what you think!