In Ayurveda sweet flavors are associated with love, sharing, compassion and joy. We know this by how much we crave them and the emotional release we get when we eat them. We taste sugary flavors with the tip of our tongues. Sweet foods are well tolerated by Pitta Dosha and Vata Dosha. Sweet foods aggravate Kapha Dosha.
Americans however, over-consume sweet and sugary foods. According to the Center for Disease Control “The leading sources of added sugars in the U.S. diet are sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts like cakes and cookies, candy, and dairy desserts like ice cream.” Therefore, It’s important to know which sweeteners are best for our bodies.
Refined White Sugar
This sweet crystalline substance is extracted from sugarcane. This processed sugar gets its sweetness from sucrose, which is broken down by the body into an even ratio of glucose and fructose.
Evaporated Cane Juice
Evaporated Cane Juice is created by crushing sugar cane to extract the juice, then purifying that juice, removing the water and turning it into fine crystals. However, unlike refined sugar it still contains a bit of molasses. Otherwise, Evaporated Cane Juice is the sister of your table sugar.
Palm Sugar is a sweetener from any type of palm tree. Sources of Palm Sugar include: sources of palm sugar are the Palmyra, date, nipa, sugar and coconut palms. It is produced by boiling collected sap until it thickens.
Bees produce honey from floral nectar or other insects (aphid honeydew) through regurgitation, enzymatic activity, and water evaporation. The honey is stored in honeycombs and then harvested by humans. Honey can be purchased raw/unfiltered or further processed.
Maple syrup is made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple as well as black maple trees. Sap is extracted by drilling holes into their trunks, the syrup is then processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.
The sweetener, Stevia, is extracted from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. Steviol Glycosides are up to 150 times the sweetness of Sugar. Stevia has 0 calories and has little affect on diabetes.
Sugar Alcohols are found in fruits and berries. The carbohydrates in the foods are altered through a chemical process into Sugar Alcohols more commonly know as: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. The benefit of this Sugar substitute is that it is not well absorbed into the body and that it operates as a laxative. The negative is that “sugar-free” or “diabetic” foods do contain these sugar alcohols which do, in-fact, elevate blood sugar levels.
Agave Nectar is made by extracting sap from the Pina (the center of the Agave plant) filtering it, then heating it at a low temperature. This process breaks down carbohydrates to sugars. Low temperatures are used in the processing of Agave, which is why it is considered a “raw” food. Agave Nectar is considered “Low Glycemic” meaning that it won’t trigger the body’s mechanism for fat storage.
Agave Syrup is modified to be no different than High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Brown Rice Syrup
Also known as “Rice Syrup” or “Rice Malt” is derived by culturing cooked rice starch followed by further processing. Studies have shown Brown Rice Syrup to contain significant amounts of Arsenic.
What does it all mean? Sugar is complex. You should try to limit your contact with any sweetener that is processed further than 1 to 2 steps. Raw Honey is a great Ayurvedic alternative to processed sugars. The Center for Disease Control suggests “Reducing the amount of sugary drinks and sugary foods each day and replacing these with plain water and fruit might be a good way to reduce added sugars intake.” Use whole fruits as a sweetener rather than using a sweetener. You’d be surprised at the amount of flavor a raisin or date can add to a bowl of oatmeal. Lastly, limit your intake of sweet foods. Treat yourself once a week rather than once a day and when you do, make that treat high quality. Really indulge in a decadent piece of cake or truffle don’t waste your craving on something that you know you won’t be satisfied with.