Sugar and Sweeteners
Sugar and sweeteners are a big topic of debate in the culinary and nutrition worlds. All the recipes that are sweetened on this blog however will use only the following sweeteners I consider acceptable.
- organic, unprocessed, raw white or brown sugar,
- sucanat/evaporated cane juice
- maple syrup or maple sugar
- date sugar
- blackstrap molasses (if I learn how to cook with it… it’s still a new one for me)
Rather than using non-nutritive sweeteners (even when doing a strict keto diet), I prefer to simply limit my portions of sweetened foods. When I read up on it awhile back, I learned that using nonnutritive and noncaloric sweeteners tricks the brain into a false insulin response. Basically, the tongue tastes something sweet, which triggers a neurochemical response to sugar. The fact that the body doesn’t actually get any sugar then causes further problems.
I know there’s a TON of paleo and keto recipes that use nonnutritive sweeteners (i.e. sweeteners with no calories or nutrients) such as stevia or sugar alcohols (erythritol, xylitol, etc.), which (1) don’t taste good and (2) aren’t good for us. My approach is to use something we know the body knows how to manage (i.e. sugar), and keep the portions reasonable. This provides a mindful approach that is better for long-term health and success.
Besides, my goal is to provide recipes the whole family can eat. Even if I personally used nonnutritive sweeteners (which I do NOT), I would definitely not feed them to my child. I want you to be able to come to this site and get recipes you know are okay for kids and adults alike, and it doesn’t seem those sweeteners are safe.
Obviously, you can make whatever choices you want, but I urge you to read the research below before you grab that next packet of stevia (thinking it’s a healthy choice).
If you want to read the research for yourself (as I ALWAYS recommend), Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD (medical biochemist, “The Paleo Mom”) has the best and most comprehensive resources I’ve found on these topics. Here are some of my favorites:
- Is Sugar Paleo?
- Bottom line: it’s the easiest sugar for our body to digest, so while it’s bad in large quantities, it’s a good choice for the occasional treat.
- What about coconut palm sugar? In this article, she says:
- “Fiber-based sweeteners like coconut palm sugar, which is predominantly inulin, seem to be a good solution for many people since the glycemic index is very low. However, these concentrated sources of soluble fibers can irritate the gut and contribute to Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, especially in larger doses. Just like sucrose, natural sources of these fibers (like fruit and vegetables) provide health benefits but once you concentrate it and start consuming larger quantities, health issues occur (but, I do think coconut palm sugar is okay in small doses if you have a very healthy gut).”
- So, since I have no idea how healthy your (or anyone else’s) gut is and we’re learning more and more about how critical the microbiome is for so many health issues, I tend to err on the side of caution.
- Blackstrap Molasses: The Sugar You Can Love
- I haven’t used molasses a lot, but it’s on my list to look into!
- The Science and Art of Paleofying—-Part 4 Sugars
- This talks about how to use these better (more nutrient dense) sugars, and how they’ll react in cooking and baking.
- Natural Sugars & Their Place in Paleo
- This discusses nutrient density of different sweeteners. There’s a great info-graphic too!
- Is it Paleo? Splenda, Erythritol, Stevia, and The Low-Calorie Sweeteners
- Bottom line: they’re all problematic.
- Instead, work on portion control; it’ll be better for your health in the long run.
- The Trouble with Stevia
- Again… problematic.
- Is it Paleo? Fructose and Fructose-based Sweeteners (I’m Looking at You Agave!)
- Basically… avoid Agave because it’s too similar to High Fructose Corn Syrup