What type of sugar should I use?

I recently heard a friend say that they had made healthy ‘sugar free’ chocolate and nut balls using maple syrup.  I had one and they were delicious!  Someone else asked if you could substitute golden syrup for the maple syrup and the reply was ‘yes but they won’t be healthy anymore because golden syrup is sugar’.  Hmmm, I didn’t say anything because I was ‘off-duty’ (nothing worse than socialising with a nutritionist who comments on all the food!) but it did get me thinking…

This type of misunderstanding is so common at the moment with all the emphasis on everything ‘sugar free’.  It seems that lots of people view common table sugars as ‘unhealthy’ but think that less refined sugars (usually the really expensive ones!) are ‘healthy’.

Actually, maple syrup is mostly sucrose, which is exactly the same as what you are getting from your packets of supermarket sugar.  And so is the other currently trendy sugar, coconut sugar.  Sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose.  Honey is mostly fructose (so is agave syrup), which is the most common sugar in fruit.  Your blood glucose levels will rise in response to any of these sweeteners; some a little more than others, but the most important factor affecting your blood sugars is the total amount of it you eat, not where the sugar comes from.  What you’re eating sugar with makes a difference too.  If the food has some fibre, protein or fat, these will help to slow down the digestion of the sugar.

It’s true that some sources of sugar also have some vitamins or minerals in them.  But you would need to eat such large amounts of the sweeteners to gain any useful amounts of nutrients that this would create other health problems!

So the take home message is: to your body, added sugars are basically all the same – choose whichever one you like but if it puts a strain on your grocery budget to buy this week’s trendiest sugar, stick to plain old table sugar – in small amounts of course!  See my last post if you want to know how much sugar is too much 🙂