The Scoop on Sugar
Posted in Nourishment for the Body » Lose It on Wednesday, November 11, 2009

War of the Sugars

Which is the safest sweetner?

Steve Mills

Chicago Tribune

 

The bright red label on a bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail boasts that it contains no high-fructose corn syrup. Its sweet replacement: sugar.

Other juice producers also have replaced the sweetener with cane or beet sugar. Big-name products including Log Cabin syrup, some Kraft Foods dressings and certain Pepsi products have gone the same route. Starbucks has undertaken a switch from high-fructose corn syrup to sugar in its bakery goods.The turnabout is another step in the ongoing demonization of high-fructose corn syrup, a potent symbol of processed food's many evils.

Many consumers see sugar as more natural, because making high-fructose corn syrup involves using enzymes in a complex series of chemical reactions. Environmentalists are concerned that depending on corn for sweeteners depletes the soil quality on land where it is farmed. Researchers have reported detecting traces of mercury in a small sampling of high-fructose corn syrup, though they cautioned that the study was limited.

Some consumers say foods made with sugar simply taste better.

Those issues have come to outweigh high-fructose corn syrup's benefits -- it helps keep foods moist, extends the shelf life of products and is cheaper to produce than cane or beet sugar. Consequently, it has become a popular ingredient in processed products in nearly every aisle of the supermarket.

The fact is that high-fructose corn syrup and sugar both contribute to increased risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses, according to the American Medical Association and numerous scientists. Although some studies have suggested the body metabolizes high-fructose corn syrup more slowly than it does sugar, experts say the bottom line for consumers is they should avoid both except in small amounts.

Manufacturers of high-fructose corn syrup say the switch to sugar is the endgame in the long campaign against their sweetener, one largely based on unproven scientific assertions.

Tips for cutting sugars from diet

-- Most experts agree that added sugars represent largely empty calories and contain little or no nutritional value. The federal government's 2005 dietary guidelines suggest no more than 8 teaspoons a day of added sugar based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories. That is equal to 32 grams a day, or about 6 percent of total calories each day.

-- Nutritionists recommend cutting those added sugars as much as possible and instead consuming the good sugars found naturally in fruits and vegetables; those foods contain vitamins and minerals rather than empty calories.

-- Check labels for added sugars and avoid those foods. Glucose, maltose, sorbitol and mannitol are among the label ingredients that indicate a food has added sugar, nutritionists say.

-- Scale back the amount of sugar you add to coffee or tea.

-- Choose fruit, or plain yogurt with fresh fruit added, when you want a sweet treat.

-- Avoid soft drinks and juices with hefty allotments of sugar or other sweeteners. A good replacement: homemade smoothies with non-fat yogurt, ice, and fresh or frozen fruit.

 

Sugar Substitutes

 

*HONEY   origin: A fructose-glucose mix regurgitated by bees

    taste: Varies depending on where it’s harvested, but no aftertaste

 

*STEVIA  origin:  The dried leaves of a South American shrub

                          taste:  Ultrasweet, with a licorice-like aftertaste for some people

 

*AGAVE  origin:  Nectar from the same Mexican cactus that yields tequila

                  taste:  Light versions have a floral taste, while dark agave is more like molasses

                 

 

Q:  What’s the Best Sugar Substitute?

 

As for which of those is the best, only your tongue can tell.  “People differ in their number of tastebuds,” says Steven Witherly, Ph.D., a professor of food science at California State University at Northridge.  “Supertasters are the most sensitive to sweet and bitter tastes and typically dislike fudge and broccoli; nontasters are the least sensitive, and normal tasters are in the middle.”

 

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