Ah, refined sugar. Its ability to satisfy our sweet teeth is nearly unmatchable, but it's ability to provide anything of substance is zero. Have you wondered why exactly? Here it is - plain and simple. To aid in digestion, the body has to borrow nutrients (good nutrients we need, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium) from other foods previously eaten in order to break it down. Once broken down, it's converted into glucose and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream; your pancreas then has to start working overtime to send out insulin, which calms down the glucose levels. This is one of the causes of Type II Diabetes. Ugh, that's nice, isn't it? To top it off, it can cause... (cue scary Jaws music) ...weight gain. So what's a gal to do? Don't go for the fake stuff, it's even worse for you. Unfortunately, short of cutting sweets out entirely (Gasp! The horror! And no, I'm not being sarcastic!), there aren't a whole lot of options. Raw brown sugar, honey, and agave nectar may satisfy your sweet craving. While they are still empty calories, Sarah Delaney of Divine Caroline does point out that they are natural and a good alternative when consumed in moderation. Delaney says your best best is Xylitol or Stevia. This is what she says about both:
Stevia comes from a South American plant and has been used in South America for over twenty years with no negative implications. It is currently not FDA approved as an additive but you can purchase it in packets at the supermarket. (I don’t know how much FDA approval is worth, considering they approved saccharin.)
Xylitol occurs naturally in some fruits and plants. The kind sold on the market in the U.S. is extracted from birch bark. Xylitol has been approved and you can find it in very few foods and in chewing gum at the health food store. One of the benefits is that it is healthy for the teeth. Now that is certainly a 360 from sugar.
So as you can see, the options are limited, but the benefits and payoffs of treating your body the way it deserves to be treated are well worth it.
Top Photo - Nisa on Flickr
Bottom Photo - Craig ! on Flickr