Refined sugar is BAD NEWS *inside joke*.
Sugar is highly processed, is completely void of nutrients, and is harmful to our immune systems (sugar masks receptors on our macrophages, allowing pathogens to live in our body undetected). Interestingly, studies have shown that people tend to get sick right after sugar-heavy holidays (i.e. Xmas, Hallowe'en, Easter, Valentine's Day). The general "5" rule in the naturopathic community is that 5 tablespoons of sugar reduces the immune system by 50% for 5 hours. So, if you are considering "resetting" your taste buds or eating better sources of sugar, I have compiled some tips for sweetening foods naturally.
Some healthier sugar options include:
- Pureed fruit (dates, prunes, mango) make great liquid sweeteners
- Mashed fruit (think apple sauce and mushed bananas)
- Fruit juice concentrates (available in frozen section, apple and orange are great when making muffins or cakes)
- Honey (has antimicrobial properties, more on its benefits here and here)
- Agave (doesn't cause sugar spikes as it has a low glycemic index, made from the agave plant)
- Stevia (calorie-free, a new alternative to calorie-free sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose)
- Molasses (high in calcium and iron, lots more here)
- Brown rice syrup (like maple syrup, allergen-free)
- And last but not least...organic raw cane sugar (if granulated sugar is what you want, opt for the purest form)
Other tips for reducing refined sugar intake:
- Give dark chocolate a try (it has way less sugar and chemicals than the milk variety).
- Buy fruit jams that are fruit sweetened (Crofter's and Le Fruit make versions that are very good, available at major grocery stores).
- Licorice root tastes very sweet but has no sugar; try drinking licorice tea (if you don't like licorice candy, don't worry because it doesn't taste at all like it).
- I also recommend eating cinnamon and chia seeds with sugar. A sprinkle of these two on top of a sweet dessert helps reduce "sugar spikes" as they modulate insulin receptors and glucose uptake into cells. When baking sweets, try to include cinnamon and chia from time-to-time.
- When push-comes-to-shove, sugar (in any form) is far better than fake sugars (e.g. aspartame and sucralose)!