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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Do I Mean By Sugar Free?

In many posts, I've written that a certain recipe is sugar free, and then people telling me "No, it isn't- it has honey, and honey is sugar." Or "Diabetics can't have fruit juice, fruit juice is sugar, why are you saying that it's sugar free?"
After repeatedly answering this question, I figured I'd write a post on this topic, and then pin it, so that hopefully, next time I mention cutting sugar out of our diet, people know what I'm really referring to.

What do I mean by sugar free?

Lets say you saw a recipe, and one of the ingredients in it is 1/2 cup sugar, what would that mean to you?

This, right?

Because in "standard" English, at least in my experience, when someone just says the word sugar, they mean refined, granulated, crystaline, white sugar, typically made from sugar beets, but sometimes also made from sugar cane.

When I say sugar free, I mean none of this stuff. Nothing colloquially known as sugar. No granulated sugar beet sugar or cane sugar.

Sugars, by definition, are things with chemical compositions similar to C6H12O6, or any combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules, where there are 2 hydrogen molecules for every oxygen molecule.
In other words, carbohydrates.
All carbohydrates are sugars.
So yes, honey is sugar.
Apple juice is sugar.
Rapadura is sugar.
Dates are sugar.
Maple syrup is sugar.

But so is milk- lactose.
And so is any starch, like potatoes, corn, wheat, rice, etc... Or beans...

Sweet and starchy vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, and butternut squash also have a decent amount of carbohydrates, and hence, sugar.

But when someone says they're going sugar free, that doesn't usually mean carbohydrate free, not having any grains or beans, any fruit, or any starchy vegetable.
They usually are referring to refined sweeteners, like processed white sugar.

Many people "sugar free" replace sugar with artificial sweeteners like splenda, sucralose, aspartame, etc... I stay far away from those, as I believe those to be much more unhealthy for you than refined white sugar.

I, on the other hand, am trying not to use refined sugar, but am willing to use more natural and unrefined sweeteners like honey, dates, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc...

What's the difference? Why will I use those, and not white sugar?

First off, white sugar is very processed. I try to avoid processed foods, because I think they're bad for your body.
My rule of thumb basically is- if I can't make it myself at home (assuming I had the raw product), I shouldn't be eating it. Anything that needs to be made in a laboratory, anything that needs to go through strange processes involving chemicals like solvents and bleaches, anything that needs special machinery to make them.
Refined sugar comes from something that looks like this.


Would you be able to make sugar from that? I doubt it.

In my books, if I can't make it at home, I shouldn't be eating it.

Honey I could make at home (provided I had the bees), maple syrup I have made, date syrup I have made, fruit juices I can make, etc...

Refined white sugar is devoid of all nutrition. There are no vitamins or minerals or health benefits in white sugar.
Fortunately, the same can't be said about the more natural sweeteners. Honey has many health benefits, fruit juices still have some vitamins and minerals, maple syrup has many vitamins and minerals.

White sugar, though, is just pure sugar. No benefits. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Additionally, sugar beets are generally genetically modified, and GMO foods carry with them certain health risks.

But honestly, the biggest reason why I think white sugar is bad for me (and probably others as well) is because my body feels differently after cheating and eating white sugar. I get such a splitting headache that it makes me regret having eaten the sugary item. I get no such reaction after eating foods made with honey, maple syrup, dates, or any other unprocessed sugar.
My body can tell the difference.
And I trust my body.

Therefore, I avoid white sugar.

Carbs in general? There are certainly some people who believe they should be avoided...
I'm not sure about that one. But I haven't made up my mind 100%. But I am trying to cut back somewhat, even if only because natural sugars are much more expensive than white sugar.

One thing I do know- I want to be avoiding white sugar as much as possible. But no matter how much I want to avoid white sugar, I stay away from artificial sugars even more.

So when I say in a recipe that a food is sugar free, I don't mean carb free or fruit free or good for diebetics or anything of the sort.

When I say sugar free, I just mean none of this:


Hope that clarifies any confusion!

Do you try to avoid sugar? When you say sugar, what do you mean? Any carbohydrate? Any chemical free sweetener? Or just white sugar?
What do you use to sweeten your food, or do you avoid sweeteners?

Linking up to  Fight Back Friday

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