Sugar is “sucrose” found in the tissues of plants but is only present in sufficient concentrations for efficient extraction in sugarcane and sugar beet. Sugarcane is a giant grass which looks like bamboo and are cultivated in tropical climates in the Far East since ancient times. A great expansion in its production took place in the 18th century with the setting up of sugar plantations in the West Indies and Americas. Sugar is part of the carbohydrates family, which is also known as saccharine. There are many variety of sugar ‘sweetness’ such as table or granulated sugar which is the most commonly used. This was the first time that sugar became available to the common people who had previously had to rely on honey to sweeten foods. Sugar beet is a root crop and is cultivated in cooler climates and became a major source of sugar in the 19th century when methods for extracting the sugar became available.
The sugar production and trade has changed the course of human history in many ways. It influenced the formation of colonies, the perpetuation of slavery, the transition to indentured labor, the migration of peoples, wars between 19th century sugar trade controlling nations and the ethnic composition and political structure of the new world. Moreover, in modern times there is an alarming rate in the health issues that are related to the excess a diet high in sugars, especially refined sugars, is bad for health. Sugar is also link to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, macular degeneration, and tooth decay.
Sugar is a complex topic. In fact, there is three main tastes that humans love and sugar (sweet) is number one. (The others being fat and salt), it is also one of the most basic ingredient that our body’s needs for the production of energy. Furthermore, sugar is typically categorized as “anti-nutrient” a term which means no nutritional value itself and works negatively in the body interfering with nutrient absorption. Tran’s fat, for example, is another example of an anti-nutrient. When sugar is referred to as an anti-nutrient and is blamed for weight gain and diabetes, the sugars in question are excessive amounts of refined white sugar and fructose but there are many types of sugar.
LET TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT WHITE SUGAR
White sugar is usually cane sugar mixed with refined beet sugar. In fact, white sugar is sucrose which is a combination of glucose and fructose. Research show that white refined sucrose harmfully affects blood sugar levels, full of chemicals, devoid of nutrients, interferes with essential fatty acid metabolism, disastrously affects the immune system and the liver. So yes, it has no nutritional value and it gets in the way of “good health”; it is, indeed, an anti-nutrient. Refined sugar is not a real, whole, good quality or natural food; it has been highly processed stripped of all its original vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Fructose is a low glycemic sugar naturally found in fruit. It’s also found in sucrose-containing foods (like cane sugar) where it is naturally bound to glucose in the form of sucrose. It is in this section because you can find a refined fructose product sold as a low glycemic natural sweetener alternative for diabetics. The most common form of fructose is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is now found in just about every processed food and sweetened beverage.
Studies using refined fructose have found some important differences between the metabolism of glucose and fructose which indicate that fructose is not a healthy sweetener, or isolated, form. In fact, fructose is metabolized directly by the liver. Because of this, there is some indication that it might be a major cause of liver congestion and fatty liver disease. It might be good to avoid refined fructose or take it in its natural form, attached to glucose and fiber.
THERE ARE REAL AND HEALTHY TYPE OF SUGARS
YES! There is, which are called sweeteners, please do not get confused, in fact when it comes to sweeteners, the important thing to note is how they are “packaged” by nature and how they are metabolized. Whole sweeteners, or natural sweeteners, have their vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients intact. These nutrients, along with the good bacteria in your body, might slow down the digestion of the food so that blood sugar doesn’t spike and the pancreas is not strained.
But remember, no studies have been done on the metabolism of whole sweeteners. Knowledge about the effects of whole sweeteners has been extrapolated from what we know about vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and bacteria. It’s also important to understand the place of fiber in the metabolism of sugar. Fiber slows down the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. So, eating your whole sweeteners with whole grains is also important. Though whole sweeteners might be more nutrient dense, they, along with all foods, should be consumed in moderation.
While artificial sugar like aspartame and Ace-k, are low glycemic and low-calorie sweeteners, they are NOT healthy foods. In fact, they are NOT FOOD AT ALL they are CHEMICALS. That should be enough to put fake sugar in the “avoid” category. But since they are low calorie and low glycemic they remain popular, especially among those who are overweight and/or diabetics.
THE BODY NEED SUGAR
Sugar is the body’s preferred nutrient for the production of energy. Glucose, a basic form of sugar, is the only nutrient that nourishes the brain. When we don’t get enough glucose, we feel light headed, edgy, faint, tired, and we crave carbohydrates. In fact, we can also make energy out of fat and protein, sugar has its place in the diet and carbohydrates should not be avoided completely. However, most of us eat too many carbohydrates so it’s worth spending time to understand how to recognize them. Low carbohydrate weight loss diets have become very popular. Though this approach will work in the short run, it needs to be carefully constructed, as the resulting increase in protein may have consequences too.
Dietary carbohydrates ultimately break down into sugar in the body. They are categorized based on how fast they break down. The term “low glycemic carbohydrate” is given to a food rich in carbohydrates that takes longer to break down in the body. An older term for this category of carbohydrates is complex which referred to carbohydrate foods that had their vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients intact. However, this proved to be somewhat inaccurate as many whole grain flours for example, though they are unrefined or “complex,” can still be high in glycemic. Moreover, it is important to know how “healthy carbohydrates” break down in the body, because they result in a slower release of sugar and less insulin in the blood stream. In fact, high levels of insulin have been linked to a number of health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
High glycemic foods is converted to sugar more quickly in the body and cause a quicker and more considerable release of insulin. Whether it is partially processed, as in the case of “simple carbohydrates” like white flour, or its molecule structure is such that it breaks down rapidly, as in the case of high glycemic foods, these carbohydrates activate an insulin surge which is bad for the body. When we consistently over indulge in processed or high glycemic carbohydrates, the pancreas whose job is to regulate the metabolism of sugar is stressed out. Health conditions involving excess insulin (pre-diabetes is only one) are skyrocketing among those who are not able to regulate their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise.
Whole sugar is considered to be unrefined. These natural sweeteners might act differently in the body, especially in regard to insulin release and blood sugar levels. It is suspected that this difference has to do with their content of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It is important for everyone to keep their insulin and blood sugar levels stable not only diabetics. This will help to level the energy, weight, and health in general.
OTHER FORMS OF SUGAR
This extremely sweet extract comes from the leaf of the stevia plant. This has zero calories and it has no affect on the blood sugar levels. In fact, this has a bitter aftertaste and, because it is much sweeter than sugar, it does not substitute well. However, it can be used in baking, but the recipe has to be modified for Stevia. Also, it is best use as a coffee sweetener.
Molasses is the concentrated juice of the sugar cane, in fact depending on the amount of sugar removed during the refining process; it ranges in color from light to very dark. The lighter types are called “refiners syrup” while the very dark types are called “blackstrap molasses.” The lighter types of molasses can be use in baking where a light cane sugar flavor is desired. Also, the blackstrap molasses has the highest nutrient content and very few chemicals.
Honey is an inverted sugar which comes from the nectar that bees ingest from flowers. In fact, the nectar is similar to cane sugar in the honey-sac of the bees. During the storage and evaporation, process the honeycomb which, is also called the honey-invertase. This is the inverting agent released by the bees. Honey varies in flavor and in composition depending upon on the source of the nectar.
Honey should always be kept in an airtight container at room temperature in order to retain its flavor. Honey contains a lot of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids, and good bacteria in its raw form it should not be given to children under one (1) year old because they lack the stomach acid and bacteria to help digest the raw honey. Honey has been used since ancient times in remedying infection. In recent times, honey has been reported to have an inhibitory effect to around 60 species of bacteria including aerobes and anaerobes, gram-positives and gram-negatives.
Maple syrup/sugar is produce from the sap of the maple tree. Maple sugar contains 93%, and maple syrup contains 66% solids, these solids are mainly sugar.
This is brown sugar made from raw sugar cane. It is a larger crystal than some other raw cane sugar due to the way it is processed. Demerara sugar is more or less the same but has slightly more molasses in it.
Brown sugar is white cane sugar that has had a portion of its original molasses mixed back in during the final stages of processing. It is more or less identical, nutritionally speaking, to white processed sugar and, unless it is organic, it still contains the chemicals found in white sugar.
In baking sugar not only adds flavor to the finish product, but it also helps to form a tender texture by weakening the gluten. This also helps to increase the moisture and improve shelve life of the product. Sugar also acts as a preservative and it is very addictive on several levels.
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