Friday, January 13, 2017


F A R M A C Y   |  A L T E R N A T I V E   S W E E T E N E R S
A guide to sweeteners and how to tame your sugar dragon for hormonal and weight balance . . .

s seemingly everyone's New Year's resolutions of eating healthier are gnawing our ears, I felt a post on alternative sweeteners was appropriate. Mainly because many people often draw their resolutions to either extreme dietary behaviours or overcomplicate their approach to changing their habits. 

I am to confess that despite a very intentional and wholesome consumption of foods, I am a slave to sucking on the devil's breast milk that is sugar. No, that does not mean refined sugars like cane sugar or golly gee damn white sugar. My own sweet tooth is slayed by stevia, Lakanto, or the occasional dates in those crack RX Bars. These are all natural, healthy alternatives to the sugar dragon itself but they still feed its fire. I know this because I recently resolved to not sweeten my morning tonic with stevia or have the few bites of Lakanto chocolate and as a result I right about lost a smidgen of my will to live. We are all addicted to sugar in one form or another, natural or refined

Many of us are unaware and feed this addiction still, even with a switch to a healthier way of eating. We find alternatives to candy bars, switching noshing on Snickers to Lärabars but disregarding the fact that both have around 20 grams of sugar. True, the sugars in the latter come from dates but all your body is thinking is "I wanted sugar and I got it." Sugar is sugar is sugar. When we feed it, it's better to do so with healthy sweeteners but we need to be mindful of when, with what, and how often we do it. As a resolution, I believe many of us can make the intention to consume less of it, whether it's starting from cutting off refined sugars or minimising the "natural, unrefined" forms of sugar we consume in the form of alternative sweeteners and fruits--I'm looking at those sugar bomb smoothies with two bananas and a handful of mango . . .

This addiction is because sugar is a rapid energy and thus comfort food. This is not only industrially-fed to us to which many research articles and NYT exposés can attest, but chemically as well. Here is a history written eloquently by my friend Kristy Mucci and beautifully illustrated by Alex Testere. First, sugar hides in almost every processed food in the market; search the labels of anything from the obvious cereal packages to that tub of low- or non-fat dairy products (which, on a side note, please switch to full-fat, grass-fed dairy that is not over-processed with milk powders because our body thrives on fat). Here are all the names under which sugar is disguised, which you can avoid by eating whole foods and avoiding processed, packaged ones:

 sugar in disguise 

  Agave Nectar   |   Barley Malt   |  Barley Syrup   |  Beet Sugar   |  Brown Sugar   |  Brown Rice Syrup 
           Cane Sugar   |   Carbitol   |  Carob Syrup   |  Caramel Colour  |  Coconut Palm Sugar  
    Concentrated Fruit Juice  |  Corn Sugar   |  Corn Syrup  |  Dextrin   |  Dextrose   |  Diglycerides
Disaccharides   |   Florida Crystals   |  Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)   |  Glucitol  |  Glucose  |  Glycerides
       Glycerol   |  Grape Sugar  |  Hexitol  |  High Fructose Corn Syrup   |  Inversol   |  Invert Sugar 
   Karo Syrups   |  Lactose   |  Maltodextrin   |  Malted Barley  |  Maltose   |  Mannitol   |  Mollasses
     Monoglycerides  |  Pentose  | Polydextrose   |  Ribose Rice Syrup  |  Rice Malt  |  Saccharides  
             Sorbitol   |  Sorghum  |  Sorghum Syrup  |  Sucrose  |  Turbinado Sugar  |  Zylose

Tongue twisted into Twizzlers reading that? According to Dr. Frank Lipman, our bodies do not discriminate when it comes to sugar, whether it is "organic," "raw," or "all-natural," the most green-washed term. We process it all the same, whether it's refined carbohydrates like bread or high-grade maple syrup from Vermont. Granted, the latter also has some vitamins and trace minerals attached but it still causes a spike in blood sugar levels. It is this spike that we should be cautious of when approaching our New Year's Resolutions--our habitual tendency and craving for the height of energy that sugar causes and instead turn to fuel for longer with healthy fats.

Unlike the slow and sustainable energy that fats provide, sugars give a spike of energy because they are processed very quickly by the body. Sugar enters and is rapidly fed into the bloodstream, causing insulin to rise and simultaneously for blood sugar to drop. Then consequential drop then causes a further craving to rise it back up again, switching on a dreaded cycle. See the image of reaching for those extra fries or scoop of ice cream? Your body sadly feels it even with a fruit-and-nut bar like Larabar--no discrimination . . .

The cycle comes down to sugar causing weight gain through a surge in insulin levels and excess glucose consumed to be stored as fat. It also further taxes other organs and those that control hormones, namely the thyroid. Adrenal glands that regulate stress hormones kicks into overdrive and cortisol is shot through the roof to raise energy levels to carry a now sluggish, sugar-craving body through the day. Taxed organs and yo-yoing hormone levels not only cause weight gain, but also lead to inflammatory and chronic illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer. 

On the other hand, when blood sugar levels are kept stable and insulin levels are low, fat is released from fatty tissues and is burned for sustainable, steady energy levels. Eating healthy fats allows us to burn fat and subsequently lose it, with a steady source of energy unlike the many restrictive, starvation mode diets that which New Year's Resolution diets advocate.
So, this New Year, let's resolve to not only be more conscious of the form of sugar we consume, but how much of it we consume and do so conscientiously. When you do reach for a baked good with healthy sweeteners, savour it. Make it an all-senses experience where you have a lil' relationship with that cookie . . . but make it an occasional date, it's time to break up and find comfort through our own and not external pleasures like sugar. 
See the graphic below for the best options and share it with your sugar slayin' friends . . . My go-to's are Lakanto, birch xylitol, stevia, and raw honey.