Sugar and sugar substitutes are a hot topic. There are so many options out there! Which raises the questions: What is the best alternative to table sugar? Is plain old white sugar really that bad for me? Is it safe to consume _____ in place of table sugar?
The truth? All sweet stuff is not created equal. As much as Americans try to limit the sugar filled foods, we’re hopelessly addicted. And that means spending lots of money on sweeteners that aren’t table sugar but are just as bad for us.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about the most popular sweeteners on the market:
1. Table Sugar (also known as Sucrose)
Table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose, it’s made of beet sugar or sugar cane. Let’s get a little science heavy and talk about the biochemistry of glucose vs. fructose. This is really important to help you understand the metabolism of sweeteners:
Glucose can be used in three ways: as fuel for your brain and red blood cells, stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles (to be used later) or it can be converted to fatty acids that are stored in fat. When you’re in a situation where you chronically have too much sugar, muscle and fat cells become resistant to the effects of insulin and take up less glucose. This is when your pancreas stops being able to meet your need for insulin and type 2 diabetes develops.
Fructose is processed differently. The liver removes fructose after being absorbed in the gut and then it is used to produce glucose, fatty acids or lactate. In contrast to glucose, fructose doesn’t stimulate insulin secretion. This is an issue because leptin, the hormone that controls satiety and feelings of hunger, is regulated by insulin that is released after a meal. The takeaway? Consuming fructose reduces circulating levels of leptin and insulin, which plays a role in weight gain and its associated metabolic sequelae.
That being said, it’s virtually impossible to eat too much fructose from fruit. With fruit you’re getting fiber, water and nutrients which take a while to metabolize; the fructose doesn’t hit your liver all at once when it comes from a fruit source.
2. Turbinado Sugar (also known as Sugar in the Raw)
I know a lot of people look at raw turbinado sugar as the safer alternative to her sister, white table sugar. That is a false assumption. Turbinado is pure sugar cane extract which makes it 50% fructose and 50% glucose, just like table sugar. It has the same effects on blood sugar mentioned above. …