Each of us is sometimes visited by the desire to taste something delicious. Even though the understanding of deliciousness may differ from person to person, most of the time this feeling involves chocolate, ice cream, candy or lollypops – anything that’s sweet! However, we must control ourselves when eating sweet and sugary products as they are harmful to our bodies. Trust us – it is not a myth created by cheeky parents to steal sweets from their kids and eat them alone while the little ones are fast asleep. As we believe you have tons of sweets left in your pantry after Halloween that wait their moment to be eaten, be careful about the sugar you are likely to consume in no time… You understood correctly – we dedicated this blog to draw the line between bad and good sugar!
Sugar Does Not Grow on Trees, or Does It?
Sugar nowadays has become a somewhat usual ingredient in every meal or snack that we eat. However, we do not use the same sugar throughout all of the dishes or drinks. As the sugar name may differ, the methods of their production process are different as well, but as white sugar is the most popular, we invite you to get to know its production from a much closer perspective. White refined sugar gets extracted from two types of plants – sugarcanes and sugar beets.
The first of two is grown in mostly warm climate zones as sugarcane plants cannot survive the frost. Besides, large amounts of water are necessary to grow as much sugarcanes as would produce enough sugar to meet the demand. Once sugarcane crops are harvested, the plants are chopped and milled to extract their juices, which are later heated to produce thick syrup. Despite the already lengthy process, the manufacturers still need to evaporate the excess water from the syrup to achieve sugar crystals. However, the sugar journey does not end here as brown-coloured sugar crystals still need to be bleached with chemical compounds to produce a well-known white product.
Regarding the sugar extraction from sugar beets, this process is less complicated than the previously explained one. Sugar beets are usually harvested in autumn and then transported to the sugar production factories. After sugar beet’s roots are washed (they are grown in fertile soil, so this step is not to be missed) and sliced, they are mixed with several chemical solutions and go through the process of evaporation, which creates white sugar crystals – no further refining process is needed.
How We Consume Sugar?
The sugar we consume every day mostly is what is called added sugar; however, the real difference lies in where this sugar is added to and by whom. It is quite clear how much sugar we consume by adding it to our morning coffee or tea, but things get more trickier when we drink soft drinks or store-bought sweets and snacks. If we decide to look closely at the food labels, we will see sugar listed as carbohydrates. It is a correct statement; however, we are much more likely to consume high fructose corn syrup, which is made from corn starch and not the usual sugar. This sugar-like sweetener is one of the most popular ingredients that manufacturers use even though it is not far from being banned in the EU and other countries. As for today, high fructose corn syrup’s production is subject to strict quotas and restriction documents, but it does not change the fact that we are still consuming it without really knowing when exactly.
How Harmful Sugar Really Is?
Excessive sugar intake can result in poor skin health and high blood pressure. However, as we tend not to know when we consume it, we often attribute these features to other life issues and not our diets. The scale of the problem gets revealed when we look more closely at food portion sizes, their nutritional value, and take into account the opinion of professionals. Medical researchers and dietitians agree that adults should have no more than 30 grams of sugar a day – the same as seven sugar cubes; for kids and toddlers, these numbers must be several times smaller to maintain healthy life. Despite the righteousness of medical suggestions, they are very hard to live by as almost every store-bought product is packed to the brim with bad sugar. Bad sugar has no nutritional value, causes tiredness and constant hungriness, weight gain, and excess belly fat, which could turn into severe obesity. Besides, limitless sugar consumption is the straightest way to diabetes and heart diseases, and sadly these sicknesses are increasingly diagnosed with younger people and kids.
Are We Doomed, or Are There Any Alternatives to Bad Sugar?
The question above is quite silly as the very name ‘bad sugar’ suggests that there is another side of a coin – good or natural sugars. There are a bunch of natural sweeteners, which are far from processed and can sometimes be obtained straight from the plant. Natural sugars come in the shape of vegetables, fruits, and dairy products, but what they have in common is providing essential nutrients, which keep us healthy and strong. Stevia is one of the best-known plant-based sweeteners, which, despite being sweet, is also linked to lowering blood pressure and insulin levels; however, one still has to refine it to turn it into a more usable form.
Besides stevia, there are several other natural sweeteners used worldwide, which are less harmful to our organisms when compared to actual white refined sugar. Molasses are made from the same sugarcane plants and sugar beets as regular sugar but are not refined and has a syrup-like thick consistency. Maple syrup is also one of nature’s best natural sweeteners. Even if this product is quite expensive in stores, one can easily make it at home as the process of making it is simple – one has to boil the sap of maple trees until it thickens. Next comes coconut sugar, which is very similar to regular white sugar everyone usually uses as it is high in calories.
Now it’s time for the best natural sweetener of all times – good old honey! Even though it is still sugar, organic honey is far safer and healthier to use than table sugar. Full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, honey is also that one product that is completely safe to use after its expiration date. The only thing that helps people separate natural honey from the fake one is its consistency, which crystalizes after some time, but does not lose any healthy features.
Recipes with Natural Sugars
Keeping only natural sugars in your pantry does not mean you cannot pamper yourself with some casual yet super healthy sweets. However, most of the time, such natural sweets require to prepare in advance. Pick them, mix them, bake them, cut them, and only after that EAT THEM – we can guarantee that these recipes will be as sweet and healthy as they can be! Besides, we decided to turn the healthiness of our favourite treats up by a few notches and share only vegan-friendly recipe ideas. You can thank us later!
Granola. Mix oats, nuts, and seeds with some coconut oil and honey or maple syrup, and add your favourite dried fruits. Pour the mixture into a large cooking pan and spread evenly, bake until golden. Let the granola cool completely and cut into pieces and enjoy!
Green cocktails. Grab every vegetable and fruit that you can find nearby and put everything into a food processor. Add in some honey or maple syrup, add few drops of CBD Oil for that extra healthiness and let it mix!
Nature’s candy. Pick your favorite berries or cut fruits into bite-size pieces, place them evenly into a food dehydrator machine or onto a cooking pan, and use it accordingly. Dried fruits and berries are a great alternative to bad sugars themselves!
Ice Cream. Mix coconut milk, maple syrup, and tahini – sesame paste – in a food processor, blend them well and pour the mixture into an ice cream maker or spread evenly on a freezer-safe dish. Don’t forget to put some berries or fruits as toppings!
Gummy Candies. Blend apple juice, a little bit of agave or maple syrup and Agar-agar powder together, strain the mixture and bring it to simmer in a small saucepan. Let it cool for a bit, add few drops of CBD oil for that extra healthy kick and pour into gummy molds. Freeze it, remove it and enjoy!