As a natural health care physician I get a lot of questions on this topic. What is good what is bad? So let’s start with some basic information.
Did you know that 1 teaspoon of white sugar can reduce your immune system for up to 4 hours? Sugar can cause mineral imbalances within the body, feed yeast (candida), rise triglyceride levels, elevate harmful cholesterol, increase inflammation, increase risk of cancer, weaken eyesight, increase asthma symptoms, contribute to osteoporosis, contribute to blood sugar imbalances and diabetes, increase fluid retention, result in irregular bowel patterns, increase risk of hypertension, weight gain, as well as contribute to hormonal imbalances, to name a few things. This is why it is very important for moderation.
I try to stress to patients that many of the sugar substitutes that are out there are in many ways worse than sugar (as bad a as sugar sounds). The use of sugar substitutes can lead to toxicity, increase appetite (the body does not recognize it as sugar therefore makes it crave more), lead to neurological problems, increase risk of cancers, increase obesity, and gives a false sense of security for those who are dieting, One article I reviewed said that there were 92 potential side-effects of aspartame consumption, 20+ of the symptoms were reported to the FDA. There have also been some studies that link aspartame consumption with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Another controversial form of sugar that is out there is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). We find it in everything because it is sweeter than sugar and cheaper. It is very difficult to find bread that does not contain HFCS. HFCS does not break down or digest in the same way that sugar does, it is harder for the body to break down and it has a negative effect on the hormones that effect blood sugar and appetite Consumption of HFCS will actually cause appetite to increase (which can contribute to weight gain) it also is harder for the liver to break down and can lead to fatty liver because of this. HFCS adds more inflammation to our system along with a cascade of other problems within the body.
SO what now? The number one sugar alternative that I recommend to patients is stevia, it is a naturally sweet fiber and has zero calories. It is sweeter than sugar. There are however a few people that for whatever reason cannot taste stevia. It should also be noted that if you put too much stevia in something it can give it a slight bitter taste. Stevia comes in liquid and powder form. The liquid forms can come in different flavors as well such as chocolate, lemon, raspberry, etc. There are also web sites that give information on how to cook with it as well. Other good alternatives are raw sugar, inositol (naturally sweet B vitamin) and honey. Keep in mind though if you have diabetes stevia is the better choice as it does not spike blood sugar as honey and raw sugar would. And in a pinch go for the white sugar over the artificial sweeteners containing aspartame.
An educational video can be found on YouTube called: Sugar The Bitter Truth. It helps fill in a lot of blanks and gets you thinking about sugar.