I find it absurd that every restaurant has a little box of sugar/sugar substitutes on the table of almost a full rainbow of colors. How did this happen? What happened to plain sugar? What IS plain sugar? Are some sugars “healthier”? It’s easy to become so frustrated that you want to throw little sugar snowballs at someone. Here’s a little guide to clear up the fuss. Bottom line: added sugars are bad. They get metabolized by your liver and lead to high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. Naturally-occurring sugars are okay. Sugar-scented perfume is never okay.
Coconut Palm Nectar; essentially palm tree sap. It tastes remarkably like brown sugar and though it has a lower “glycemic index” (nobody cares about this anymore so stop bringing it up Gretchen, fetch is never going to happen), it has just as many calories and grams of sugar as regular sugar does. It’s not a health food, it’s not magical, but it *does* have more minerals than regular sugar (which is basically devoid).
High Fructose Corn Syrup: a blend of fructose and glucose (about 55% fructose, so not terribly HIGH, really), made from GMO corn (usually), and then further processed and put into (usually) processed foods. There’s some evidence that it’s metabolized a bit differently (and possibly insidiously) by your liver, but studies are still ongoing. Bottom line: it’s super processed, it’s an added sugar, and you should avoid it.
Cane Sugar (aka Sucrose): Even if it’s raw/organic, it’s still SUGAR. The same ‘ole thing as table sugar, but less processed. It still raises your blood sugar, causes an insulin spike, and is an added sugar.
Lactose: this is the sugar naturally occurring in dairy products. At some point, many adults become lactose intolerant and find they cannot digest dairy because they are missing the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose. Lactose is pretty benign otherwise; it’s not really used as an added sugar (phew).
Agave: NOT a health food. Again, nobody cares about your glycemic index chart. This stuff is MOSTLY fructose, which again, may be nefarious to your liver, so stay away from this cactus-based sugar.
Date Sugar: Yes, dates are great because they are a good source of minerals and fiber; but dried dates are still added sugars! And overuse of any added sugars is bad. 17 entire dates to make your vegan pie crust? STILL added sugar!
Brown Rice Syrup: Sure, let’s just extract the sugar from the rice grain and make it sound healthy because it’s from brown rice. It’s mostly glucose when it’s metabolized. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just like eating cooked brown rice, friends.
Evaporated Cane Juice: plain cane sugar in disguise. Bye.