Different sugars – are natural sugars better than table sugar?

Sugar….. that white crystal powder that makes food sweet. The majority of people have heard that sugar isn’t good for you, that it can lead to negative health consequences. Some people talking about sugar addiction. A debate between sugar and sweeteners, many believing sugar is better because it is “natural”….. but forget that there are plenty of “natural” foods that would be incredibly dangerous or toxic to consume, so natural doesn’t mean healthy.

So I thought I would do a little break down of sugar and different types of sugar.

Are dates and dried fruit better than white sugar? What about agave syrup compared to high fructose corn syrup? Is fruit sugar actually bad?

I have a previous post about sugar vs sweetener, which you can read HERE. There are a lot of different sweeteners, so to get into all of those I would have to dedicate a post just to them. So instead I will just mention them a little in this post and compare them to sugar.

So let’s start off with…. What is sugar and what other names/types of sugar are there?

So white sugar which we all know as caster sugar or cane sugar, or in other terms: Sucrose which consists of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. [Glucose is typically found in some fruits, vegetables and honey. Fructose is found mainly in fruit. And there is also galactose which is a single sugar molecule and is found in milk and dairy products]

In the body, sugar (Which I will now refer to as sucrose or table sugar) breaks down into glucose and fructose. The enzyme sucrase has to break down glucose and fructose which have two different absorption methods in the body. Glucose is absorbed directly and used as energy, both for your brain and muscles while fructose goes to the liver first where it is either then converted into energy or stored as fat (if there is an excess of calories).

There are other forms/names of sugars:

Lactose: This is the sugar found in milk and is built up from galactose and glucose. This is why dairy products usually have some sugar in them because of this natural sugar content.

Fructose: This is the sugar found in fruits, vegetables and honey. It is a single molecule/simple sugar.

Glucose: Typically found in starchy vegetables, such as potatoes. Dextrose is also comprised of only glucose, and this is because glucose is the main source of energy for the body as well as the only energy source the brain uses. It is the quickest energy source and also spikes the blood sugar.

Corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is usually 100% glucose, whereas high fructose cornsyup is a mixture of glucose and fructose, just like table sugar.

Other types of sugars: Icing sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple sugar, dextrose.

Sweeteners:

Sugar alcohol: So sugar isn’t really sugar, but it is a carbohydrate and consists of a chemical structure that is similar to sugar and alcohol. It is also called polyols, and they are considered sweeteners. They aren’t fully absorbed or metabolized in the body meaning that they contribute with less calories than sugar. These sugar alcohols are also called, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol. Because the structure of these polyls can resemble alcohol structure, some people can get digestive issues from these sweeteners.

With this in mind, you realise that it is not just white table sugar or syrup that has sugar… but many other foods, including vegetables, fruits, dairy. But this isn’t a bad thing, as mentioned above glucose, fructose and lactose (a disaccharide) are infact natural sugars. They provide energy and your body needs glucose found in example starch vegetables and also in fruit.

However, just like with table sugar too much sugar whether it is from potatoes, dates or mangoes isn’t good either. They also spike your blood sugar, insulin is released and too much energy does get stored in the body. However, glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver which is important as the body closely regulates blood so if haven’t eaten for several hours and your blood sugar begins to dip, glycogen will be broken down from your muscles and used to increase your blood sugar.

“In the process of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, the body is unable to distinguish between sugars that are added to foods and sugars that occur naturally in foods, since they are chemically the same.”

The difference between glucose and fructose is that glucose is absorbed rather instantly in the intestines and goes straight into the blood and can be used as energy for your muscles and your brain. Whereas fructose first has to go through the liver and then be absorbed by the blood, so it doesn’t have the same quick response and release of energy as glucose.

So, what about table sugar or high fructose corn syrup that consists of both glucose and fructose…. This is where sugar/HFCS stands out compared to just fruit or vegetables that consist of single sugar molecules. Table sugar and syrups have to first be broken down by the enzyme sucrase, then the glucose is absorbed in the intestines and then the fructose has to go to the liver where it is metabolised before being released into the blood stream as energy or converted into triglycerides or stored as fat.

The difference between fruit and white sugar, example candy or soda:

Well first off, fruit contains a lot more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than candy or soda. You have to chew fruit (well, you chew candy as well), there is fiber that is important for your gut bacteria, and of course you get vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. The fructose does of course have to go to the liver to be released into the bloodstream, but the amount of fructose you get via 1-2 fruits is very little compared to the amount of fructose/glucose you get via 1-2 handfuls of candy or chocolate. Not to mention, when it is dairy chocolate you are getting lactose sugar as well as fructose and glucose.

Candy or soda basically only have sugar and very little nutrients.

What about fruit or vegetables compared to example buns or cakes? Cakes, buns, cookies all have a lot of sugar… but they also have other ingredients such as butter and flour. So the butter, which is a fat will also slow down the emptying of the stomach and therefore the digestion of nutrients as well as flour containing gluten which is a protein. So yes, you get a lot of sugar but you also get fat (mostly saturated) and white flour (which of course is processed), but you could look at it like cakes/buns/cookies etc would be better than straight up sugared candy or sugared soda. The same goes with chocolate, you could look at it like you are infact getting some dairy which contains calcium (if you consume dairy chocolate), or if you eat dark chocolate you will be getting some antioxidants and iron as well… even if it is miniscule amounts it still contains a little more nutrition rather than just syrup/sugar.

So how does example baking syrup compare to agave syrup or honey?

Agave syrup or honey, just like baking syrup is straight up sugar. There isn’t so much difference aside from agave syrup and honey maybe having 5% more nutrients than regular baking syrup.

What about dates as sweetener compared to white sugar or syrup?

Being objective and sticking to the facts… then dates and dried fruit as sweeteners is rather similar to white sugar or syrup. Granted, it is mostly fructose and not fructose and glucose. But 100ml of dates/date syrup compared to 100ml sugar or syrup, it is similar in sugar content. Of course, if you are using whole dates they will have a little fiber… but they are mostly just fructose i.e sugar, and the same goes for white sugar. But dates and date syrup is a lot more expensive.

Of course, I do believe that using dried fruits as sweeteners is better than white sugar or syrup which consists of 2 sugar molecules. But you can’t forget that dried fruit or agave syrup or date syrup consist of a lot of sugar which will spike your blood sugar and be stored as excess energy. So using those isn’t necessarily that much better, but if you enjoy using them… use them. Just don’t drown your oatmeal, pancakes or toast with them and thinking it is healthier. (Of course, healthier is a relative term as for some that might infact be healthy).

It’s all about marketing:

Date syrup, coconut sugar and any other fancy sugar substitutes have all been marketed as healthy and better than sugar, but nutritionally they are pretty much the same as sugar. Just that some may have a difference in what sugar molecules they are made up of. The best would be to go for sugars made up mostly of glucose. The “healthy” marketed sugar alternatives are just pricy and not always worth the money.

Of course… if you prefer using them and can afford them… then go for it. They do give a different texture and taste which you may prefer in your baking. Just don’t begin pouring agave syrup over your oats or adding coconut sugar to your fruit smoothies or eating 15 dates a day (unless you have a reason for it such as low blood sugar, athlete or need to gain weight). Sugar is still sugar and will break down into the same molecules and have the same effect in the body whether it comes from syrup, honey or raisins.

So how much sugar should we consume? How much is too much sugar?

The recommendation for sugar is c.a 25-35g per day, or about 5-6 tsp. Or nutritionally, only 5-10% of your total calories should come from sugar. Meaning, if you have a requirement of 2000kcal, only about 100-200kcal of those should come from sugar. I.e 1 330ml coke is 35g sugar and your total sugar for the day (according to recommendations). However the majority of people consume double or triple this amount daily.

In the future I might make a post about “Hidden sugar” in certain foods which many aren’t aware of. That is of course not to scare you or make you avoid those foods completely, just to become aware of certain foods that may need to be limited and not eaten on a daily.

To be noted, is that you could also see the sugar recommendation as c.a 210g sugar per week… meaning that you may have one day a week where you eat a bunch of candy and chocolate and drink some wine, but the other 6 days you keep your sugar intake minimal (not including fruits). Or maybe you are someone like me, who likes to have a little bit of chocolate a few times a week and instead of having one day you eat a lot of sugar I keep it minimal/moderate each day. So find what works for you in regards to your sugar intake.

**Important to remember that consuming sugared soda or candy with lots of sugar isn’t the same as eating fruit or if you eat a meal and then some fruit. Because of the fiber and chewing involved when eating the majority of fruits – not all of them, it will give you more satiety as well as vitamins and minerals. If you eat a full meal consisting of protein, carbs and fats, the fat in your meal will actually slow down the emptying of your stomach and your digestion (this isn’t a bad thing… unless maybe you are going to run a half marathon and want quick energy, then eating primarily glucose may be beneficial) and the release of sugars won’t be as quick compared to if you just drink soda or eat candy, where the break down and release of sugar into the blood stream will happen rather quickly.

Which also leads me to: Carbohydrates, i.e which include sugar molecules, begin to break down in your mouth when you chew as you have enzymes in your saliva which begin to break down the sugar molecules. So when you drink sugared soda or eat candy where 50% is glucose, some of the sugar will be broken down and absorbed rather instantly… which can be a good thing if you are feeling faint, need quick energy or have low blood sugar.

Juices and smoothies? Not as much fiber, a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but there will also be a lot of sugar that will spike your blood sugar rather quickly because so much of the fiber – and chewing – is gone when you drink juice and smoothies. Of course you do still get lots of nutrients and vitamins, so it is better to give your child – or yourself – a fruit smoothie than a McDonalds milkshake, but don’t underestimate the amount of sugar in a fruit smoothie.

Excessive sugar intake isn’t good, whether it comes from table sugar, date syrup or mangos. It does spike blood sugar, which in turn can increase risk of developing diabetes or metabolic damage. Not to mention the damage on teeth from consuming too much sugary products. But as previously mentioned, fruit is not the same as eating candy. And nutritionally dried fruit contains more nutrients than candy so it is better to opt for that for the majority of time, but at the end of the day too much sugar whether it is from sugared candy, sugared soda or 10 banana smoothies isn’t healthy or recommended.

I know some people may not agree with this post and may think that “Natural” sources of sugar are better and when it comes to agave syrup in comparison with high fructose corn syrup I will always recommend agave syrup in first hand. Just like I will tell people to opt for dates with peanut butter or go for a fruit instead of grabbing a handful of sugared candy. But at the end of the day, all of those need to be limited and whichever you choose to consume in moderation and limited amounts is up to you because they are all similar in the body anyway.

Final notes, try to avoid added sugars and the clearly obvious sugary products i.e cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, soda, syrups etc

Plastic Free July? | Tips & advice | privilege, practical, realistic?

It’s July, and i have noticed on social media there is a “campaign” talk about plastic free July.

I think it is great that we are bringing awareness about plastic and the need for everyone to decrease their use/consumption/buying of plastic. To use alternatives and to demand that products are packaged in other materials than plastic.

You can read more about plastic pollution crisis, HERE. I.e we all need to do something about this…. and if we as consumers show that we want products with less plastic and make active choices. For the sake of the climate and planet, but also for the animals as many animals and marine life are actually dying due to plastic pollution… but even our health is impacted due to the microplastics and BPA.

*This post contains affiliate links*

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I have written previous posts about plastic which may be interesting to read:
Aware but not obsessed? | Organic, plastic free, locally produced food?

Going plastic free – Realistic? Convenient? Practical?

Earth day 2018 – Plastic pollution & ways to minimize plastic use

Pre packaged and portion sized foods

Tips to minimize waste and plastic use

5 ways to minimize plastic use and help the environment

If i am honest, i am not someone who believes in 100% plastic free or zero waste. Even if i like the idea of it…. I just don’t think it is practical for anyone. Unfortunatly, our society uses plastic in SO MANY items… just like with being vegan, there seems to be animal products in almost everything. However, just because there is so much plastic doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to make a change/difference and decrease your use of plastic.

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It just means some extra planning. You may also need to invest in things such as glass lunch boxes, Metal straws, reusable fresh produce bags, on the go coffee cups/thermos, glass jars,reusable utensils and the list goes on.

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You will also need to carry around an extra bag with you incase you need to buy something when you are out and don’t want to purchase a plastic bag. Of course, this is one of the simplest changes you can make… just buy a cheap cotton bag which you can always have in your bigger school/work/gym bag!

Bring your thermos/on the go coffee cup with you so that you don’t buy coffee out… but if you do have to buy coffee out, skip the plastic lid!

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I think it is great with the initiativ to decrease plastic use… how it is not always practical or possible for everyone.  There is plastic everywhere. And i am pretty sure i use and purchase items which contains plastic which i had no idea about.

But also …. going plastic free means you may need to invest in certain products/items before you can go fully plastic free. Not to mention, it may mean having to cut out ALOT OF different foods because they contain plastic. If i am honest… almost half the food i buy comes in some form of plastic packaging. When going plastic free you will most likely have to shop at stores which sell products that have very little or no plastic packaging… where you bring your own jars or use brown reusable bags to pack the fresh produce. However… alot of frozen food is then no longer an option. But frozen food (meaning frozen vegetables and fruit, not pizza and fries) which are often cheaper and last longer, arenät an option. But many people don’t actually eat up the fresh produce they buy and have to throw it away, meaning that it isn’t really better.

However… what you could do if you can afford it (and have the space in your freezer), is to buy big 1kg frozen vegetables instead of the small 200g/500g bags… because then you atleast minimize plastic in that way. 

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4 examples of plastic:

1 The lid and little inside “lid” in plantbased milks. (Note, cut the little “capsule/lid” when you thro them away so that wildlife don’t get caught in them/eat them)

2: Alot of the food i buy does have plastic… which i do want to become more aware of and limit – as i do have the possibility to do it at times.

3: Everything in that pesto came in a plastic pacakge… apart from the garlic

4: Eevn the glassfood boxes i bought came with plastic.

Also, you can’t forget that if someone is living on minimum wage the most important thing for them is to find some form of cheap food to be able to eat…. not whether it is plastic free, vegan or nutritious.

Going plastic free is a privelage in a sense… I live in Sweden and have the possibility as well as somewhat economical possibility to make choices. I can buy food in bulk and without plastic when possible. I can bring my own bag to the grocery store and invest in glasslunchboxes and metal staws. I can bring my own freshproduce bags and skip the plastic bag that is usually used when buying fruit and vegetables in bulk.

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I can choose between buying lentils in a cardboard package or plastic package. I can choose to not buy a food because it has lots of plastic packaging – because i know i can buy other food. I can take the time to walk/travel to another store just because they have more fresh produce which is loose/buy in bulk. Some months i can spend the extra money on making more plastic free choices. It is a privilige which not everyone has.

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However… i can’t avoid all plastic. It would not be possible for me to buy all my food plastic free. Not to mention, i take medication which i need daily that comes in/is packaged in plastic… there is no plastic free alternative.

I can of course make active choices when possible.

But what about disabled people… there are certain foods which may have extra packaging because it is easier for someone who is disabled.

I think when possible we should all try to limit plastic… example, does the product with a cardboard/nonplastic package cost 1dollar more than the option with plastic… then it is worth tat 1 dollar… according to me anyway.

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Can you skip the small portion packages of food and instead buy in bulk? Can you skip the Nescafe coffee capsules and instead use a coffee press/coffee beans? (in all honesty, i think these coffee capsules should be banned). Can you buy fresh produce in bulk using a paper bag or your own fresh produce bag? Can you buy the frozen berries in a cardboard pacakge instead of plastic pacakge? Can you skip the plastic lid when ordering coffee on the go?

 

Just because we can’t do something perfectly or can’t do it all… doesn’t mean we can’t try. Can’t go completely vegan? Well you can still eat as vegetarian as possible and not buy products with animals products (such as fur, leather, wool), as well as buying cruelty free. Can’t go completely plastic free? Well you can still decrease use of plastic when possible. Can’t go zero waste/minimalist? Well you can still try to limit waste and clutter when possible. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, 0 or 100. We can just do our best and what is possible.

I also think it is important for us all to ask ourselves… do we not make these changes because we don’t want to or because we can’t? There is a difference. Many people don’t even try to limit plastic or try to eat more vegetarian because they don’t want to… even if they can. Whereas there are many who are in situations where they actually can’t make those choices but might want to.

So if you are in a situation where you actually can make choices and changes that are better for the climate, planet, animals… then i think you should. It doesn’t have to make a huge impact in your life, but may make a huge impact for the planet and climate if everyone made those small changes.

You can read more about plastic and plastic pollution in the links below:

Plastic pollution in numbers

The worlds plastic pollution criss explained  *highly recommend you read*

100 steps to a plastic free life

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Cooking oils – uses, temperatures…

Cooking oils….. what are there benefits? Which are best to use and for what? And what about their smoke points?

I thought i would do a little infographic and share some information about different oils and their nutritional benefits. There are of course lots of oils out there, some better than others. But i chose to focus on 7 oils in this post, and can of course do a second post with other oils if that would be of an interest to you.

Let’s start off with, you do not need to use or consume oil, some people prefer to get their fats from the actual food i.e olives, avocado, flax seeds, peanuts and not from the oil. However oil can help with flavour as well as helping make food crispy when cooking, which many like. Now a days an airfryer is very trendy because you can get food rather crispy without using oil. Oil can also help with the uptake of the fat soluble vitamins in your food – however you can also choose to just eat some other form of fat with your meals to help with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins in your meal.

Now lets talk smoke point…

“Smoke point” is the temperature at which oil starts to break down. Oils with high smoke points (such as vegetable, peanut and sesame) are good for frying or high-heat stir-frying, while oils with low smoke points (flaxseed or walnut) work well in salad dressings and dips.

The oils with alot of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAS) are more prone to oxidation (as their chemical bonds are more unstable) due to high heat (but even sunlight and air can lead to oxidation), and that can be harmful if you consume. So fats that have alot of saturated fat (example butter, margarine and coconut oil) are alot more stable and usually used in high temperature cooking.

Not only does the oxidation of the oil cause negative health consequences if consumed, it also ruins the nutritional value of the oils and can give the oil a bitter and rancid taste. Some oils – those with alot of polyunsaturated fat – are best stored in the fridge as heat and light can make them go rancid.

If cooking in high heat using saturated fats is best. However from a nutritional perspective it is best to consume oils with alot of monounsaturated fat (as that is linked with decreasing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol which is important for heart health and reducing risk of cardiovascular diseas) Oils such as olive, avocado and sunflower.

Note, many vegetable oils contain alot of omega 6 which has inflammatory effects (if consumed in high amounts) so good to limit the intake of many vegetable oils (primarily canola oil, soybean oil and peanut oil). However, it is better to consume oils high in polyunsatrated fats than fats (such as butter and margarine) with alot of saturated fat.

 

Cooking oils infographic

If you have any questions or would like me to do more of these posts (or on different foods just comment below!)