Is coconut sugar better than table sugar? What’s healthier - honey or maple syrup syrup?
Maple syrup, honey, raw honey, agave, coconut nectar, turbinado sugar... with all of these different options available, people often ask me, “Which sweetener is the best?” Or, “What’s healthier, maple syrup or honey?” Some people swear that maple syrup is the healthiest choice, whereas others say agave is the way to go. The truth is, there is no such thing as the “healthiest sugar.”
Regardless of which kind you buy, sugar is an exceptionally concentrated source of calories and provides few other nutrients. Some caloric sweeteners like maple syrup and honey contain trace amounts of minerals and antioxidants, however you would have to consume an absurd amount for them to lend a worthy contribution to your daily needs. Humans are biologically programmed with an innate preference for sweetness. This once functioned as a survival mechanism, driving us to seek out high calorie food sources for our bodies to use as fuel. We are so hooked on sweetness that we even use variations of the name as terms of endearment or to describe something or someone pleasant.
What is more important than which sweetener you chose is the amount you consume. As with nearly all things nutrition, moderation is key. There has been solid evidence to show that the overconsumption of sugar can lead to obesity and diabetes. More recently, it is being examined as a culprit of heart disease and other chronic illnesses as well. The American Heart Association recommends women limit their sugar intake to less than 100 calories per day, and that men limit it to less than 150 calories per day.
Sadly, when it comes to cutting back, food manufacturers are not on our side. They are very stealthy when it comes to food labeling and use names for sugar that the average consumer won’t recognize to sneak it into their products. It is added to tomato sauce, peanut butter, soups, breads, salad dressings, and many other foods you would not typically associate with a sweet taste. Click here for the list by EatingWell to help you spot hidden sugars in your food. Fortunately, your palate is adaptable, so small changes really add up. Start by cutting out one teaspoon of sugar each week and watch your cravings die down.
Check out EatingWell's guide to detecting sneaky names for sugar: http://www.eatingwell.com/blogs/health_blog/other_names_for_sugar