Sweet Talk: Refined Sugar vs. Unrefined Sugar
Now that Easter is over, let's talk sugar! As most of you are aware, we sweeten our delectable truffles with organic medjool dates and avoid refined sugar. Everyone knows that refined sugar is bad for you. Today more than ever we find ourselves in a world where refined sugar is not only in our sugary, desserty treats but it is also hidden in many of our non-dessert food choices.
We know this is bad, but do we really know why?
Why is it that refined sugar is so bad for us?
Is refined sugar completely unavoidable?
And if not, what alternatives can we use to avoid refined sugar in our baking and cooking?
We will start with the basics:
Refined Sugar is a form of raw sugar that has been processed or ‘refined,’ down to a point where it contains purely carbohydrates. It has been depleted of its life forces, vitamins, and minerals leaving what is called “empty carbs,” (1)
The health disadvantages of ingesting refined sugar have been continuously proven, and are seemingly growing as science progresses and we learn more about its effects on the body. Refined sugar intake has been linked to many illnesses, including but not limited to: diabetes, spiked blood pressure and heart illnesses, fatigue, and even mental illness (1).
Unfortunately most of our daily foods contain refined sugar, but the good news is there are wonderful, easy alternatives we can use in our cooking to drastically reduce our refined sugar intake! (HOORAY!) ;)
“What are some alternatives we can use to avoid refined sugar?” We have made a list of some natural, wonderful, healthier, and happier unrefined options to help not only you, but also your family in achieving a healthier, less refined lifestyle:
As a whole fruit, dates are the perfect unrefined sugar source and substitute to white sugar in your household baking. They are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals and are easy substituted into your favorite baking recipes. Potassium, Iron, fiber, and magnesium are just a couple of the benefits dates offer your body, while also keeping your deserts healthy and delicious. (2) Dates can be added whole, blended up, or boiled into recipes to become (our personal favorite ;)) sugar substitute.
Like dates, figs are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals containing but not limited to iron, vitamins C A E and K. Figs are low in calories, have an antioxidant value comparable to that of apples, and taste absolutely delicious. (3) Figs are also a great source of potassium, which makes them a helpful way to control blood pressure. (4)
They can be cooked, eaten fresh, boiled, blended, ground, and pureed making them an easy substituted to any of your cooking needs.
Maple syrup contains not only antioxidants, but when used in appropriate amounts can lower inflammation and help to better manage blood sugar and is easily substituted in recipes! In order to benefit from maple syrup you will have to be careful to purchase the right kind, avoiding ‘phonies’ usually found in big name grocery stores. Be sure to check the ingredient label to make sure pure maple syrup is the only or primary ingredient, avoiding cane/beet sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Also be sure to purchase organic when possible, as that ensures the trees weren’t treated with any chemicals. (5)
Raw honey that hasn’t been processed or modified is not only extremely delicious but holds many undeniable health benefits. Honey can easily be overlooked as an alternative as it has become so commercialized and processed that most of us forget about our local honey farmers. Local Honey not only can sooth a sore throat, but has antibacterial and antifungal properties and studies even show that Manuka Honey can speed up healing time in the body (6). If you are interested in trying raw honey as a substitute be sure to get it from a trusted, local bee farmer and ALSO to avoid giving it to children under the age of one, as it may contain a bacteria called botulism that is harmful to babies.
So you see, unrefined sugar retains much more of sugar’s natural nutrients, such as fibre, calcium, iron and magnesium and can infact have many health benefits. There actually can be a good reason for putting it into our body!
It is easy to reduce the amount of refined sugar we consume by using these alternatives and by being a label reader.