Breaking it Down: Refined vs Natural Sugar
Sugar is always a hot topic. It's also one that can be confusing. In this Blended For Wellness, we're sharing:
1. The key differences between naturally occurring sugars and refined sugars.
2. Natural alternatives to refined sugar.
3. Tips for kicking a sugar habit.
4. Blends you'll love as a no-refined-sugar treat.
Natural sugar is commonly found in nutrient-rich foods that have not been processed (eg. fruits & veggies) and contain essential vitamins, minerals, water, antioxidants, and disease-fighting phytonutrients. They often come within foods containing the compounds necessary for the proper digestion of sugar. Natural sources of sugar are often in higher-fibre foods that are digested slower, which helps you feel full for longer and supports stabilizing your metabolism and blood sugar levels.
Natural sugars are extracted from sources to produce the refined sugars found in many prepared foods. Two examples are table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Refined sugar is unhealthy because it's been processed and stripped of all nutrients (which your body needs to metabolize it). The lack of fibre causes a hit to the blood stream quickly, which gives you sugar highs and lows ("crashes") as well as sugar cravings (sugar is highly addictive). Ingesting refined sugar causes the body to release an overload of insulin to aid in its digestion, which can result in stored glycogen and weight-gain.
Refined sugars are typically added to foods and beverages to improve taste. They’re considered empty calories because they contain virtually no vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, fiber, or other beneficial compounds.
Refined sugar has been proven to increase the risk of health issues like heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and stroke.
Alternatives to Refined Sugar
Raw & Unrefined Sugar still retains natural nutrients like iron and magnesium. It's also free of chemicals and pesticides.
Coconut Sugar is extracted from the sap of the coconut palm, and is fairly similar to refined sugar except that it contains some nutrients and antioxidants.
Honey is often praised for its health benefits, containing beneficial antioxidants and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. It's been shown to improve risk factors for disease.
Yacon Syrup is extracted from the Yacon plant and has a dark colour and thicker consistency similar to molasses. Yacon Syrup may support appetite reduction and healthy gut bacteria.
Monk Fruit sweetener is extracted from monk fruit and contains zero calories, fructose, or glucose. It is high in unique antioxidants called mogrosides, which make it 100-250 times sweeter than refined sugar.
Maple Syrup is cooked down from the sap of maple trees, and contains antioxidants as well as many healthy minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese.
Xylitol and Erythritol are sugar alcohols often found in fruits and vegetables. They contain fewer calories than refined sugar and do not raise blood sugar/insulin levels, although they can cause digestive issues.
Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of a South American shrub. It contains zero calories and has no known negative health effects.
Tips & Tricks for Kicking Sugar
1. Read nutrition labels: refined sugar lurks in some surprising places: jarred sauces, frozen foods, condiments, canned soup – a lot of these foods are shockingly high in sugar, even if they don’t taste sweet.
2. Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel like it. Staying well-hydrated makes you less likely to get withdrawal headaches and can help curb cravings.
3. Try a healthier sweetener: cravings getting out of hand? Look for a healthy way to get your sweet fix instead. Stevia and monk fruit extract are two calorie-free herbal sweeteners that won’t mess with your blood sugar.
4. Get enough sleep: we often crave sweets when our energy is low as a quick pick-me-up.
5. Avoid sugar-free candy substitutes: loading up on candy that is packed with artificial sweeteners can mean both a chemical overload and won't help you break that 'candy' habit. Opt for frozen berries or other natural sweet fixes that are high in fibre and other nutrients, but don't encourage a sweet tooth. Check out the Blended treats below.
6. Find a friend: if you have someone who has the same goal, set up a no-refined-sugar challenge (try a week to start).
Blended Zero Refined Sugar Treats
Spoon straight from the pack or use as the base of your own bowl. Always no-sugar added, packed with nutrition and super delicious.
If you aren't spooning as is, here is a quick recipe for making Blended nice cream in minutes:
1 x Inside & Out or Acai Organic Berry blend (quick thaw in room temp water for 30 seconds to 1 minute)
1 x Frozen banana (large): chop ahead before freezing so your blender doesn't need to work too hard
2/3 x cup coconut, oat or cashew milk
1/4 cup chopped almonds or dates (optional)
Blend it all up. Added a little extra liquid as needed, but keep the texture thick. Spoon into bowl, add your toppings or enjoy straight up.
Zero-sugar-added, refreshingly delicious
Hack our blends into nutrition-packed Blended popsicles that no one will suspect are 'healthy'. Bonus: the prep time is about 5 minutes. Here's a sample:
This one is more adult forward. To make it more kiddo-friendly, add a banana into the blender mix and skip the basil addition.
2 x Be Green blends
2 cups coconut water
Optional add-on: once you've blended the above, stir in some finely chopped basil.
1. Let your Blended smoothie packs soften slightly until you can just break in half (see back of pack for instructions).
2. Add to blender with the liquid & other ingredients
3. Blend & pour mixture into popsicle molds
4. Let freeze for 6 hours or overnight
Makes 4 to 6 pops.
If you have any questions about the blends or need help deciding which blends are best for you please EMAIL US!