“Coconut sugar is still sugar”
We encourage people to cut back on sugar because it is one of the largest health problems society is facing today. If coconut sugar were part of this answer then we would be encouraging the use of it, but it’s not.
Whenever something is sweet we have to first ask where this sweetness comes from. Is it a simple sugar like glucose, fructose or sucrose? Is it a sugar alcohol like xylitol or erythritol? Or is it something else like the glycosides in stevia?
For coconut sugar it is simple sugars (70-80% sucrose, 3-9% glucose and 3-9% fructose – ASEAN 1992 Vol. 7 No. 4 p. 200-201).
The health claim made on coconut sugar is that it has a low GI of 35, which is much better than table sugar (sucrose) which has a GI of 60. The first problem is that the single study which this number comes from is a study done in the Philippines (a producer of coconut sugar) and only included 10 individuals. Looking at the study and the amount of simple sugars that are in coconut sugar, it is very likely that the GI of coconut sugar in your body is much higher than 35. The second, and biggest problem, is that coconut sugar is not doing anything to reduce the overconsumption of simple sugars. Yes, it is better than refined white sugar since it has more nutrition and fiber, but better does not mean good.
Coconut sugar or coconuts? A coconut palm tree can not produce both.
Coconut sugar, also called coconut palm sugar or nectar, is made by cutting the coconut flower and draining the sap. This of course kills the flower that otherwise would have been a coconut. So there is your choice. Producing more coconut sugar means less availability and higher prices on coconut oil, milk, flakes and flour.
There are many coconut palm tree owners who have now started using their coconut palm trees to tap the sap for coconut sugar instead of producing coconuts. But when the coconut palm trees have been used to tap the sap it’s difficult for them to start producing coconuts again. You can read more about this here.
We love coconuts and everything that comes from them – Coconut oil, milk, water, flakes, flour… coconut contains lots of great fats and lots of great fibers, so let’s eat more coconuts and less sugar!
How to Talk to Your Kids About Sugar
“Aunt Emelie, why is sugar bad for me?”
I teach courses about sugar, but when my five-year-old niece asked me, “Aunt Emelie, why is sugar bad for me?”, I realized that I didn’t have a simple answer for her.
That question started me on a journey. I realized that if I, who regularly teach about sugar, couldn’t come up with a simple answer for my niece, how are parents supposed to explain it to their kids?
It’s so easy for us to say “you can’t have that; it has sugar in it.” But I think there’s a better way. I believe we can empower children with the simple knowledge they need to make better choices.
Start with “why.”
Understanding and owning my own “why” was so important when I quit sugar almost ten years ago. So I felt it was equally important for me to fully and honestly answer my niece’s “why.”
A few months and many hours later, that answer came as my first children’s book, The Sugar Story.
I wanted to make sure she knew that sugar wasn’t bad, but that we are using it in a bad way.
Through The Sugar Story, I start by helping her understand that sugar’s original purpose was to let her body know that fruits and vegetables make her healthy and strong.
But when sugar is taken out of fruits and vegetables and made into sweets, sugar continues to tell her body that this food is good for you, but it’s a lie. All the good is gone.
Give your child the tools
When we understand that sugar is being used in the wrong way, we can begin talking about the right way to use it.
Balancing our blood sugar is so important for us both physically and emotionally. This is even more important for children as their bodies are affected even more by sugar.
When eating fruit that contains more sugar, encourage your kids to eat it together with fat, protein, or after a meal. A banana with nut butter, an apple with cheese, or blueberries with coconut. This is a fun and easy way to help your child balance their blood sugar.
When you help your child regularly avoid high blood sugar spikes (and crashes!), it will help them better listen to their body and understand when they do eat too much sugar. Our bodies let us know when we eat too much sugar, but if we do it too often, we start missing the message.
Make it fun!
Our attitude towards fruits and vegetables says a lot to our children. Let’s be excited about fruits and vegetables!
One of the recipes at the end of The Sugar Story is a frozen banana cut in half on a Popsicle stick. My two-year-old nephew goes crazy over these, and it’s just a frozen banana.
Take a minute to think like a kid. Be amazed by the wide variety of fruits and vegetables we have today. Be mindful of all the colors, aromas, textures and flavors.
And enjoy a few recipes from the sugar story:
5 Myths About Xylitol
Is xylitol really as sweet as sugar?
1. Xylitol is Less Sweet Than Sugar
This myth stems from the fact that most sugar alcohols, also called polyols, are less sweet than sugar. Xyltiol is a sugar alcohol, just like erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol. Xylitol actually has the same or even more sweetness, depending on the study or person you ask. We’ll get more into the details of that in myth #2.
2. Xylitol is as Sweet as Sugar
This is actually a half myth.
The main study that is used for this “fact” is based on the sweetness of xylitol fully dissolved in water. Xylitol is up to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar when not dissolved in water.
I usually recommend using about 75% of the amount of sugar specified in a recipe to get the same sweetness as with sugar. This usually works out quite well for the consistency of recipes since xylitol absorbs more water than sugar. The exception on the consistency is for desserts that depend on sugar caramelizing, since xylitol doesn’t caramelize.
3. Xylitol Is Dangerous for Dogs
This is true, for dogs and ferrets, but still a half myth.
Dogs eat plums. It’s not good for the too, but the big danger there is them choking on the pit. Of the sugar in a plum, 10% of it is xylitol. So xylitol as an ingredient isn’t the actual problem.
The problem for dogs is pure xylitol without any sugar. Xylitol alone causes an insulin spike in dogs, which can put them into a diabetic comma and very tragically, in some cases, kill the dog.
4. Xylitol is an Artificial Sweetener.
That xylitol is an artificial sweetener is a total myth – just tell that to the plum who naturally contains 10% xylitol or your own body that uses xylitol as a side product of the Krebs Cycle. On the other hand, the xylitol you buy in the store is made in a factory, bulk produced like most of the supplement and vitamins we’re taking, but we’ll talk more about that in myth #5.
5. Xylitol Contains Nickel
We need to talk about this…
In the large-scale world of bulk ingredients xylitol is currently only being made in two ways. In the US and Europe from xylose in birch and beech trees or in China from xylose in corn husks. Both of these processes use nickel together with hydrogen to convert the “wood sugar” xylose into xylitol. The xylitol is then purified to remove the nickel, but traces could remain in the xylitol.
I always choose birch xylitol produced in Europe or the US, both because of the smaller environmental footprint, bus also because the levels of nickel are more tightly controlled. The maximum nickel allowed to be in the finished xylitol is 1mg/kg, which is 1/4th of the nickel in cashews or 1/27th the nickel in chocolate.
I would prefer a different way to mass produce xylitol and would be very willing to promote any company that is trying to do that. But I believe the health positives are stacked in xylitol’s favor.
The Bottom Line
The biggest threat against our health is the over consumption of sugar.
I agree with those that say we should not eat any sweeteners. No sugar, honey, syrups, stevia, erythritol, xylitol. That’s best.
I also realize that’s not an option for many people, and in that case xylitol is the best tasting sugar alternative, that also protects your teeth, and helps stabilize your blood sugar.
Eat Less Sugar: Dare to Be Sugar Free
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The problem: Sugar overload. We are eating 40-80kg (88-176 lbs) of added sugar every year. That is 4-8 times more sugar than our bodies can handle!!
World Health Organization, American Heart Association and SugarScience recommend a cut to max 5% added sugar. What does that really mean? To get down to those numbers we will need to cut our sugar consumption in half, and then half, and for some, half again. This will bring us back to the 10 kg (22 lbs) added sugar that we ate 100 years ago and the 5% of caloric value recommended by World Health Organization.
What is sugar?
First we need to define what sugar is. What we really are eating too much of is glucose and fructose. Glucose is the main form of sugar that our body uses. Fructose needs to be turned into glucose by the liver. The white table sugar we normally think of as sugar is called sucrose, which is half fructose and half glucose. These simple sugars are being put into almost every product on the shelf, organic products included, and under a variety of names.
Glucose – The simple sugar that our body basically runs on. Our bodies can get glucose from what we eat, even vegetables and proteins. The problem with glucose is too much and too much at one time, so when it’s added to what we eat, it easily becomes too much.
Fructose – Found in varying amounts in fruit. This sugar needs to be converted in the liver to be used by the body. Too much overloads the liver and is toxic to the body. Again the problem is too much and too much at one time.
Sucrose (sugar) – this is standard white table sugar. It’s actually a combination of glucose and fructose. Both of the above are true for sucrose. Again the problem is too much and too much at one time. Our bodies do not need added sugar since sugar is already found naturally in both vegetables, berries and fruits.
Most common names of sugar:
- HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)
- agave syrup*
- coconut sugar or nectar*
- fruit sugar
- maple syrup*
- yacon syrup*
- maltodextrin (technically not a sugar, but is the fastest carbohydrate available and acts like sugar in the body)
* These are healthier alternatives to sugar, but they still are sugar (70-98% glucose/fructose). These are still a blend of glucose, sucrose and fructose. The problem with these “better” sugars is that we don’t just need healthier sugars, we need to make a dramatic change in decreasing the amount of sugar we are eating, which includes all of these.
Not only these, but some carbohydrates (fast carbs) act like sugar in the body. They create a blood sugar high, which then crashes, like after eating sugar. Fast carbs provide little or no nutrition, are a sugar stress on your body, and can make you more hungry. Focusing on eating more vegetables is a simple solution! Ever heard of cauliflower rice, black bean pasta, or zucchini lasagna? Learn more in the Balance36 Program.
Sugar & your immune system
Both our diet and stress level affect our immune system more than we know. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system. Both sugar and stress prevent vitamin C absorption.
Vitamin C and glucose use the same pathway to come up into the cells but glucose is the stronger one and comes in first. As long as you eat a lot of sugar or fast carbs, it will be glucose that gets first priority and vitamin C gets to wait for its turn.
When you’re stressed, the stress hormone cortisol triggers more glucose to be released into the blood stream, which in turn makes it more difficult for the body to absorb vitamin C. If your body has a difficult time absorbing vitamin C, it will lead to a weakened immune system.
Sugar doesn’t kill and doesn’t diminish the white blood cells in the body, but sugar does makes them weaker and they can therefore not handle infections and virus in the same way as they should.
There are studies showing that sugar intake affects your immune system many hours, even days after consumption. Is it worth it? Is it worth those pieces of candy or that soda to get a higher risk of getting sick? And not just a higher risk of getting sick in the future. High sugar intake does increase the risk of a lot of modern disease, but sadly many people don’t want to think that far with their health. But we’re also talking today, every day, every week. Is it worth that sugar to have higher risk of getting sick right now?
What’s so positive is that there are so many good alternatives! For example, start using xylitol when you bake, and choose dark sugar free chocolate next time you’re craving chocolate, instead of normal dark chocolate that still contains around 30% added sugar, even if it’s being marketed as healthy.
Sugar and oxidative stress
Sugar increases the amount of oxidative stress on your body. Sugar causes stress in the body and stress causes sugar cravings. More on the connection between sugar and stress in step 3 of the Balance36 program.
What you will learn in the 1st step of the Balance36 program:
1. Why you want to make the change.
2. What change to make.
– Eat less sugar.
– Eat less fart carbohydrates.
– Switch to real natural sugar alternatives.
3. How to make the change.
– Be prepared.
– Make sugar free desserts.
– Prevent sugar cravings.
– Deal with sugar cravings.
– Eating out – what to think about.
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