There have been calls from a US doctor for some very strict rules governing the sugars in our food that would see refined sugar being treated with the caution that alcohol or tobacco are subjected to. Can we really reduce our dependence on refined sugars and eat sugar in its natural form as it is found in fruits or honey? Or is it too late to break the habits of a world weaned on sugar?
Dr Robert Lustig is a professor at the University of Southern California, where he specialises in studying childhood obesity. He told The Telegraph that he believes eating sugar should become taboo in the same way that alcohol consumption, and more particularly smoking, have become over the last twenty years; but why does he believe that we need to find sugar alternatives so badly?
Sugar alters the metabolism of the body and becomes an addictive substance, yet we do very little to regulate its sale or consumption. Children are being raised on an ingredient that can profoundly alter their body chemistry, their health and even their behaviour with massive consequences for our society. So what are the alternatives to sugar?
Fruit – If you have a sweet-tooth then fruit is a great way to get your sugar-fix and a lot more. High in vitamins and fibre, fruit and vegetables will do a lot more for you than just give you a sugar-rush. Not only is fruit high in sugar – raisins have the highest sugar-density of all fruits at around 70% – but they are low in calories too. So instead of a chocolate bar get your hands on a banana and fill up with fibre along with your sugar-rush or squeeze a fresh orange for its juice and enjoy some fortifying vitamin C – extra delicious with a spoon of honey for a sweet treat.
Natural sweeteners – Many of us treat sugar as an ingredient in our cooking or use it as a condiment to add sweetness to meals and snacks, but it is not the only way to make mealtime sweeter. Natural sweeteners are far better for you than refined sucrose. Why? Natural sugars take longer for the body to turn into fat, making them better for your waistline. We use Rapidura to bake with, agave syrup and maple syrup (number 3 if possible for the extra minerals) and honey. Honey is the perfect sweetener for already cooked foods as it is as sweet as granulated sugar and some honeys do a lot more for you than just sweeten your desserts.
Manuka honey is the antipodean favourite alternative to sugar produced by bees who take pollen from the manuka plant. One of the properties of Manuka honey is its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. This fantastic tasting honey from New Zealand can be used to soothe the throat and treat infections, something that regular table sugar certainly can’t claim to do!
Artificial sweeteners – There may be plenty of low-calorie or even no-calorie sweeteners out there, but usually they have their own dubious health issues. We would steer clear of any sweeteners that have been developed in a lab and we would stick with what nature gave us. Many artificial sweeteners have been affected by health scares in the past and there are no artificial sugar substitutes that can help you fight off diseases like honey or fruit can!