There is a lot of talk about sugar. Especially that high fructose corn syrup variety. But whats the truth? Is one better than the other? Is brown sugar nutritionally superior to white? How about sugar that comes from corn? Will it make me fat, give me diabetes, brain cancer? Believe it or not, I have been asked one version or another of all of these questions at some point in time. In fact, a lady in my grocery store tour program didn’t ask if HFCS gives you brain cancer; she insisted that it did. FYI- I have no idea when the actual correct time to use a semicolon is, if this is improper please feel free to let me know.
I’m going to cover the simple basics of four different types of sweeteners: white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and agave nectar. I realize that there are many more sweeteners and sugar varieties out there, practically anything ending in -ose on your food label is one form of sugar or another.
White Sugar versus Brown Sugar. There is a big misconception out there that brown sugar is better for you because it is “more natural.” This is false. Brown sugar is simply white granulated sugar which has had molasses added back into it. White sugar or sucrose is made from sugar cane or beets. I’ve done a random poll of my family to determine where this myth was formed, and I just can’t get to the bottom of it. My dad believed the myth because thats what his mom told him. My mom knew it wasn’t true (she’s so smart!) but thought perhaps the myth stemmed from the fact that other brown products like whole grains and whole wheat pasta which happen to be “brown” are healthier for us.
High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS. This is by far one of the most controversial products on the market right now. HFCS is literally in everything! But is it a problem? In terms of pure nutrition, calories, and percent carbohydrates it is identical to table sugar or sucrose. Yes, it is slightly higher in fructose, but you know where we can also find fructose. In fruit! So, the real problem is that HFCS is soo cheap (because it is made from corn, and corn is subsidized by our government). Due to its cheapness it is being found in more and more foods and the prices of these foods can be driven down because corn is cheap. The increase in HFCS has mirrored the increase in obesity as is demonstrated in the graph below. But it’s important to remember that correlation does not mean causation and there are several other environmental and genetic factors which come into play for obesity. Agave Nectar. Last but not least is agave nectar. it can be found at specialty foodstores like Traders Joes and Whole Foods. This is a fairly new product and many of you may not have even heard of it so I’m going to keep it short and sweet. Basically, this is just a new type of sweetener, not any healthier than sugar, but if you’re a foodie type person its fun to experiment with. However, I just want you to know your not doing your body a favor by using this over table sugar. Here’s an awesome article from the LA times about agave http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/30/health/he-nutrition30/