So I’m not a nutritionalist, and if one were to read this they’d probably just laugh at my ignorance. 🙂 That’s okay, I’m not trying to be all knowledgeable, just sharing some conclusions that I’ve come to. Oh and they’re not set in stone of course. Just like most fitness “advice” that we’ve all seen come and go (eggs anyone?) perceptions do change. 🙂
Anyway, so in my fitness challenge that started in March we were able to ‘earn’ a bonus point by avoiding sweets. Since sweet is such a broad term they basically clarified it as refined sugar. So… with that in mind I went about seeking ways to stay away from sugar but still satisfy that sweet craving that I often get after lunch.
By the way, I have read a bunch on different sugar and sweeteners and the way that they impact your blood sugar (glucose levels) and so most of what I’ve come up with is based on different articles and such that I’ve read from time to time.
The first time I ever heard of the glycemic index was shortly after getting married. Stuart and I started reading about it and it’s really quite interesting. I couldn’t really wrap my head completely around what foods were “high” on the index (bad) and which were “low” (good) at that time. I printed out this HUGE pile of papers that had the index and where foods fell on it, but it was difficult to navigate. Since then I’ve read and understand much more about the whole thing. I still couldn’t break it down to someone who had no clue though, and again I’d hate for a real nutritionalist to critique my “info” but for me it works. 🙂
White sugar (and flour for that matter) are HIGH on the index. Which means that when you eat something with a lot of sugar in it, your body metabolizes it FAST and it causes your blood sugar to spike. In turn this makes your body release more insulin to cope with the spike and all kinds of bad stuff happens to you on a molecular level. Make perfect sense? 🙂 If you are trying to eat a balanced diet, and lose or maintain weight and keep your body chemistry in balance, your goal is to avoid spikes in blood sugar. SO you eat things that don’t metabolize that quickly. Think protein, nuts, veggies and some fruits as well if eaten with other stuff, and fats.
As far as sweeteners go, I’ve already made the decision that I do NOT want to go the chemical sweetener route. Sugar may be bad, but fake stuff is WAY bad. That is my opinion, and you are certainly welcome to disagree. Do what works for you. I’m not a fan of chemicals. So my choices for “not chemical” sweeteners are Sugar, Honey, Agave Nectar and Maple Syrup. Sugar is bad so that’s out. So between the other 3 here are some interesting things that I have learned.
Agave and Honey are LOW on the glycemic index. They contain all kinds of vitamin/mineral stuff, but are more like natural fruit sugars and less like refined sugar. So the impact of these on your blood sugar is much less dramatic, especially if eaten with other low GI foods, than white sugar. Maple Syrup is good for you in a lot of ways, however it is molecularly closer to sugar than the other 2. So my advice there is to go easy on the Maple Syrup. I can’t give it up totally because it’s just too yummy! 🙂 Besides it is still better for you than sugar. 😉
So when I am trying to squash that sweet craving without using actual sugar, I resort to those 3 things. I sweeten my morning coffee with a bit of Agave. It has less of it’s own “taste” than honey. I use Honey in my tea both hot and iced. I use Maple or Honey on my plain yogurt. Yum! I also make coconut oil chocolates with some Maple syrup, and my “energy bites” with honey. Those 2 things were my life savers when I first started the challenge.
The thing is, once I had been eating less sugar for a few weeks I found that I didn’t crave as much sweet stuff. I make a frozen fruit smoothie after my workouts in the evening and that stuff is just as good as ice cream and, of course, MUCH better for me! 🙂
So in a rather large nutshell that’s where I’m at for now. Say no to white sugar, say no to chemical sugar and say yes to natural sweeteners!! 🙂