Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Monday Mission: Use Less Refined Sugar

April 12th, 2010 · 22 Comments · Monday Missions

soaked brownies Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to find at least one way to cut down on refined sugar this week.

Impact Ratings: healthpositive money?

Level of Commitment: Your choice!

My Story: White Sugar Free

Last year for Lent, I was just beginning my real food journey, and I decided to give up all white sugar and corn sugars for the whole 40 days.  You can see that story here.  I learned a lot, especially about all the many places refined sugars hide in our processed food world!

What is Refined Sugar?

There are many ways to sweeten food, but some are found naturally in the environment, like honey and maple syrup, and others are made in a factory or lab, like Splenda, dextrose, and high fructose corn syrup.

Although all sweeteners add calories to your meal and can feed nasty things like bacteria in your bodies, natural sweeteners have at least some redeeming value. Raw honey is antiviral, and maple syrup and molasses have some vitamins and minerals.  Refined white sugar comes from sugar cane, and it is so processed that all the minerals are stripped right out (they end up in the molasses).  Refined sugars are 100% empty calories that do nothing but harm your body (and taste good, unfortunately).

There are some less refined sweeteners as well, alternatives to white sugar like Rapadura, Sucanat, and evaporated cane juice.  I’m not entirely convinced that these aren’t just expensive replacements for white sugar.  Some day I’ll find the time to do the research into sweeteners!  Any thoughts on that subject?

For now, I just know I need to cut down on the white sugar and anything that ends in –ose on an ingredients label.  It’s not doing anything good for me!

UPDATE:  Lisa Byrne, a biochemist who is also a certified holistic health counselor, offers a free 19-page eBook on Breaking the Sugar Habit here.  It’s simple, to the point, and very well done.

Favorite Sugar-Less Recipes

soaked granola bars (1) Why not “sugar-free” recipes?  I think that term has been taken over by products even more dangerous than sugar, the artificial sweeteners like Nutrasweet (aspartame), Splenda (sucralose) and other chemical sweeteners.  Please, look out for artificial sweeteners on your labels and stay away from them like the plague!

I use honey most of the time as an alternative sweetener, and I also rely on natural fruits, nuts and coconut to add a little sweet to my treats:

Get the Sugar Out!

Tomorrow Donielle from Naturally Knocked Up will tell you her incredible story about sugar and her fertility here at KS, and at her blog she’ll share some practical tips on reducing your sugar intake and have a linky for you to join in with related posts.  Your posts might include:

  • Any recipe with an alternative sweetener (see below for details)
  • Your story about sugar
  • Research on the harms of sugar
  • Information about alternative sweeteners and how to use them
  • What else?

I’m also going to tempt your taste buds with lots of photos and a recipe list from my upcoming Healthy Snacks To Go eBook, plus you can become one of the first to see it if you win the giveaway Donielle and I are co-hosting!

UPDATE:  Here’s a post on agave and stevia: health benefits or hazards? after the comments at this post.

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If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.

Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • Simple in France

    I’m right there with you on refined sugar (white) but I’m always wondering about brown sugar or cane sugar. . .I suppose it’s no good either.

    And another thing that gives me pause is stevia. I know a lot of people use it in the States as a ‘natural’ substitute for sugar but stevia extract is not approved in Europe. I don’t know why, but since European countries have fought against such things as high caffeine energy drinks, it makes me wonder. . .
    .-= Simple in France´s last blog ..Pinching Pennies, Indulging in Luxuries =-.

    Anita Reply:

    Hi there in France,
    I read this on wikipedia- The European Food Standards Agency is conducting a safety review and is expected to permit stevia extract to be used in the EU member states in 2010, France first!

    Tiph Reply:

    From what I understand… brown sugar is nothing but refined white sugar with molasses to make it brown. Def not a healthy substitute!

    Here is one of my favorite articles on healthy sweeteners: http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2008/09/my-favorite-natural-sweeteners.html
    .-= Tiph´s last blog ..Green Blessings…. =-.

    Tiph Reply:

    From wiki:
    “Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar product with a distinctive brown color due to the presence of molasses. It is either an unrefined or partially refined soft sugar consisting of sugar crystals with some residual molasses content, or it is produced by the addition of molasses to refined white sugar.

    Brown sugar contains from 3.5% molasses (light brown sugar) to 6.5% molasses (dark brown sugar)….”
    .-= Tiph´s last blog ..Green Blessings…. =-.

    Laura Reply:

    That is good to know, thank you! Also, all the information shared on here is very helpful regarding real foods and the effects of sugar and other preservatives, thank you!

  • LindsayP

    Hi Katie,

    Thanks for this post- I gave up all obvious sugar, chocolate, honey, maple syrup and refined carbs for Lent and have felt fabulous! I didn’t start again after Easter, it was so good for me. (I voluntarily turned down ice cream last night!)

    I’m now only using stevia and Splenda in small amounts. Some may argue that Splenda isn’t good for you, but at least it doesn’t affect my blood sugar or trigger binges like other sweeteners do. For a person who’s been known to down an entire package of Double Stuf Oreos, that’s a big step, so that’s where I’m at for now. Personally, I can’t even eat honey or maple syrup, because those are trigger foods that make me want more (and worse) sweets. Maybe others would be ok with them.

    My energy level is amazing; at 7 1/2 months pregnant with 2 young children, that alone makes it worth the sacrifice!

    Looking forward to reading what info/stories people have to share here,

    Lindsay

    klutzymama Reply:

    Lindsay,
    Congrats on going sugar-free!! I’m wondering if you had feelings of withdrawal or headaches when you stopped consuming sugar. Also, how long did it take to feel the benefits and the boost in energy?

    Thanks!

    LindsayP Reply:

    Hi,

    Thanks! I didn’t have any headaches and didn’t notice the cravings too badly because I didn’t limit myself on any other foods (I am pregnant and not bound by Ash Weds fasting). The energy boost began after about a week or so- less tired but also actual added energy. I had also given up coffee and was surprised at how awake I could feel even without a full night’s sleep.

    Good luck!

    Katie Reply:

    Linds,
    Amazing testimony!!! I read in a CCL magazine a few years ago that Splenda was possibly the least of the artificial sweetener offenders, because at least it’s made from regular sugar instead of pure chemicals. ?? I’ve read opposite too; it’s just so new that it’s tricky. Stevia may be a contraceptive; I will post on that this week in brief after all the questions here!
    Thank you for sharing! :) Katie

  • Jen

    Aww shoot – I was hoping you had a “real food recipe” for that picture up top….. it looks yummy…… guess it has all the real junk in it :-)

    As for my thoughts on sugar, I figure the less refined: ie turbinado vs white is better then just the white, so I use that when I can. In fact, a couple weeks ago my MIL couldn’t figure out why I had no more white sugar in the house for her tea- and I guess using the turbinado wasn’t the same :-) oops! I use the turbinado in my coffee, have tried honey, but don’t really care for the taste. But I use honey in almost everything else. I am with the comment above on stevia- I have heard good and bad about it, up to now I have pretty much avoided it. And I totally stay away from all the “sugar-free” stuff in the stores…….. I won’t let my husband buy sugar free ice cream, I tell him if he’s going to get some just get the regular stuff, I don’t want those nasty substitutes in there!
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Split Pea Soup =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Jen,
    There is white sugar in there, but not much! It’s one I’m working on for a desserts ebook in the summer; sorry to try your patience so! :) Katie

  • Meghan

    heavenlyhomemakers.com just did a review post on natural sugars today. I learned a lot from it.

  • Heather

    im curious to see what else people use as sweetners, ive tried agave nectar, but now have seen that isn’t as good as once thought. I have used honey in some recipes, but not sure how to sub it for white sugar, i assume i need less of it.I do try to use less sugar in my baking, but its still always white.

    As for sugar free stuff, it all gives me headaches so I gave it up.

    Katie Reply:

    Heather,
    How to substitute honey for white sugar in baking recipes: Use 3/4 c. honey per cup of sugar called for, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup, and either reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees or baking time by 10-15 minutes or both. Honey makes baked goods brown faster, so just watch them the first time you alter a recipe! In my opinion, any cutting of white sugar is a good step! That’s how I started, too. Donielle also has some good ideas here: http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/2010/04/12/cutting-back-on-sugar/

    Thanks for visiting! :) Katie

  • Suzanne

    I have a question. What are your thoughts on stevia? I realize it’s processed, but I’ve heard it’s safe and no calories. What do you think? just marketing hype? Would love to know your thoughts!

  • Fern

    Several years ago, I found I have a intolorance to processed sugars, and my pancreas was shutting down.. I learned to prepare real foods for my family using natural sweeteners. I totally abstained from processed sugars for 5 years, giving my pancreas time to heal. I have to loses blood sugar in my family, and have educated myself and my children to the benefits of good nutrition. Thanks for sharing your information.
    Let me know what you have studied about Xagave. It claimes to be a natural sugar replacement , extracted from the avave plant. I have not found much negative information. I have used it quite a bit and have found it to really lower bloodsugar.

  • Beth

    Hi Katie! Thanks for this article… reducing processed sugars is something I know I need to do, but I’m afraid I don’t have the willpower for it. Anyway, I have a question for you… my MIL is diabetic, and uses Splenda and Nutrasweet like they’re goin’ out of style… (mainly to sweeten tea and coffee), as well as buying “sugar-free” items at the grocery store. She’s about as far from a real food diet as you can get, and has multiple health issues. I think asking her to give up the Splenda, etc. would be pointless. She can’t use the “good” sweeteners, like honey, because she’s diabetic. Any suggestions for someone like that???
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Blogosphere Awesomeness =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Beth,
    That’s such a tough question. I use cinnamon and vanilla a LOT to try to mimic sweetness for my MIL, a diabetic. I think the goal is ultimately balance: every person is going to have some cabs, it’s just a matter of making them count and knowing how much one’s blood sugar can handle. I explored this topic a little here.

    Although stevia and agave have their questions, I would choose them 100x before I’d use Nutrasweet! Coconut oil in the coffee might help. ?? Diabetics are unfortunately called to a level of self-discipline and willpower that many of us don’t have, I believe.

    Katie

  • Theresa

    OMG! How funny that this is the monday mission – I bought a bag of Organic evaporated cane juice instead of white sugar this weekend! I’m with you though – is it just an expensive version of sugar?? when we make more money, I’ll be able to switch to maple sugar, but till then… I LOVE baking, so sugar is neccesary in my house :)

  • Stacy

    We try to avoid white sugar, but we do use stevia. It is processed, but its a plant extract that has been used for thousands of years in South America. I know some people who purchase a stevia plant, and then use the leaves when they brew tea.

  • Katie

    Lots of questions on Stevia here! I will put up a mini-post sometime this week and link from here about Stevia, agave, and other natural and “natural” sweeteners to better address the questions. Thank you!!

  • Justin Wilson

    The anti-”ose” diet is a sure loser.

    Replacing simple sugars with molasses, maple syrup, or honey will get you no where. They all contain the same basic building blocks: glucose and fructose. You shouldn’t switch from one sweetener to another and expect to lose weight.

    The bottom line is simple. Whether it comes from a sugar beets, sugar cane, or ears of corn—sugar is sugar. And no matter the name, they have the same number of calories.

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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