What about sugar?

Sugar is an often discussed topic amongst the primal/paleo/low-carb community.  Sugar, in its purest sense, is straight, unadulterated carbohydrate.  At their most basic level, fruits and vegetables also contain sugar – but they aren’t the concern here.  The sugar I’m talking about is the stuff you can find in Little Debbie snacks, soda, ice cream, etc. – whether that’s in the form of table sugar or the cheaper, sweeter, and probably unhealthier high fructose corn syrup.  You know, the stuff that spikes blood sugar, wreaks havoc with insulin sensitivity, and is at the root of the obesity issue that our nation faces todayADDED SUGAR.  That’s why at the root level of Paleo, it is recommended to stay away from it entirely.

Nothing sweet? Ever?  Never ever?

Realistically, you won’t be able to avoid it forever (or even want to.)  But if you do decide to kick up your Paleo-heels once in a while and go for something sweet, what is the best way to do it?  Are there any good substitutes for sugar?  And what about artificial sweeteners?

One Size…does not fit all

This is a tricky question, and a potential slippery-slope for many people.  The key to it all lies in what “once in a while” means to you.  For me, I’ve found that having 2 scoops of ice cream every other week is an acceptable amount.  I maintain a healthy body fat (5-6%), and don’t feel too crappy the next day.  What amount you can eat and still continue your weight loss goals might be more, or less.  It’s up to you to experiment and figure out what works for you – just don’t go too crazy.

Tips for Battling that Sweet-Tooth

1.  Don’t keep it at home.

If you decide to go out for ice cream, or any other treat, make sure you go out for it! Keeping desserts in the house is a sure-fire way to NOT SUCCEED and drive yourself batty besides.

2.  Make it yourself!

Even better is when the girlfriend whips up some healthy Paleo-treats.  These are great because they’re delicious and WE control what goes in them.  For a sweetener, we tend to use Maple Syrup or Honey.  Not only are they scrumptious, but they are the LEAST PROCESSED out of all the added sugars.  Plus, on closer inspection, they stack up quite well against other common added-sugars.

Per 100g:

  • Table Sugar:  387 cal ; 99.91 g sugar; GI (glycemic index) 80
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup:  281 cal ; 76 g sugar; GI 87 (that’s a higher number than SUGAR!)
  • Honey:  304 cal; 82.12 g sugar; GI 30/75 (30 if raw, 75 if processed)
  • Agave Nectar:  289 cal ; 76 g sugar; GI (15-30)
  • Maple Syrup:  261 cal ; 59.53 g sugar; GI 54

By this measure, it would appear that either Maple Syrup or Agave Nectar is the best alternative.

Artificial Sweeteners

But what about artificial sweeteners?  In this recent study at Purdue University, it was discovered that artificial sweeteners trick the brain in to thinking it is ingesting calories when it isn’t, training the body to NOT respond.  Then, when we do ingest real sugar/calories, our body can’t tell the difference nor regulate intake.  Uh-oh.  In other words, using artificial sweeteners as a total replacement for sugar, and thereby not changing your eating habits, still equals weight-loss problems.

What do YOU use?

Now it’s time for you to weigh in.  What is your favorite sweetener to use (if any)?

That’s it for today.  As always, stay healthy my friends.


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  1. Pingback: Paleo Treats: Chocolate Coconut Cookies | FreeFit Guy

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