These guys are the sugars you should try to avoid as the body breaks them down rapidly causing blood sugar levels to rise. Refined sugar typically comes from cane sugar or sugar beets, but are called many names (which makes ingredients lists tricky to understand) :
These guys retain some nutritional benefits such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants so you’re not just getting empty calories. Your body breaks some of these unrefined sugars down at a slower rate, especially fibre rich fruit. If you can, buy raw, organic versions.
Yes, fruit contains sugar. No, you shouldn’t worry about it and you definitely shouldn’t avoid fruit. Fruit is natural, it’s full of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and it tastes delicious! In fact, the high fibre content of fruit acts as a buffer to slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. Plus, fibre helps you feel full and promotes healthy bowels.
HEALTHY SUGAR SUBSTITUTES I USE
COCONUT SUGAR: my favourite for baking. Contains B vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, some short-chain fatty acids, polyphenols, antioxidants, a prebiotic fibre known as inulin. And it tastes like caramel!
GI rating: 35
HONEY*: my favourite all-rounder. Contains antioxidants, raw and manuka options also provide anti bacteria/fungal properties. Flavour varies depending on the flowers the bees have fed on.
GI rating: 50 (HIGH FODMAP 50% fructose, 50% glucose)
*raw or manuka is best
MAPLE SYRUP*: best for making raw vegan treats, pancakes and granola. Contains traces of calcium, iron, manganese, potassium, selenium and up to 24 antioxidants.
GI rating: 54
*Grade A is lighter & milder, grade B is darker & higher in nutrients. Maple flavoured syrup is NOT the same!
STEVIA*: very low GI (glycemic index), low in calories, may lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s naturally a lot sweeter than standard white sugar so a little goes a long way. I prefer other sweeteners flavour wise but it’s good for those times when I’ve over indulged on sugar, and I like it as the sweetener in my protein powder.
GI rating: 0
*whole leaf stevia (green powder) is the purest form
BLACKSTRAP MOLASSES: thick, sticky and reminiscent of treacle, this sweetener contains iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper and B vitamins. Use sparingly to add depth of flavour to marinades, dressing or ginger cookies.
GI rating: 55
DATES: if you love chewy caramel, you’ll love medjool dates. Their impressive nutrient profile has been linked to improved digestion, vision, growth and development, cholesterol, blood pressure and bone health. Best eaten raw, dipped in nut butter or raw chocolate, or blended into raw snacks like bliss balls.
GI rating: 42 – 55 depending on date variety
YACON SYRUP: extracted from the tubers of the yacon plant, this sweetener is rich in prebiotic fibre to feed good gut bacteria. It has a sweet malty taste, akin to caramel.
GI rating: 1 (making it great for diabetics)
THE GLYCAEMIC INDEX
The glycaemic index is used to assess the amount of sugar (carbohydrates) in a food item and its effect on blood sugar levels. Food is scored on a scale from 0 to 100; 100 being pure sugar that will rapidly raise blood sugar levels, and 0 being a food very low in sugar that will keep blood sugar levels stable.
low GI = 0 – 55Medium GI = 56 – 69low GI = 70 – 100
Add a pinch of CEYLON CINNAMON. Ceylon cinnamon is one of my favourite spices that has the ability to help stabilise blood sugar levels.
P.s I’m rather partial to a banana dipped smothered in raw chocolate sauce (cacao + cacao butter/coconut oil + coconut sugar/honey), with a pinch of cinnamon ?
Although unrefined sugar is a better option, any nutritional benefits are minimal and sweeteners should only make up a small percentage of your diet. Having said that, you should NOT feel guilty for enjoying a sweet treat.