Even a touch of added sugar has become a no-no in some restrictive diets. A mention of the “S” word – S*U*G*A*A*R – can cause an uproar in the low-carb diet crowd! Sugar quickly became the “it” word for a diet disaster just like fats, hydrogenated oils, salt, HFCS and GMO’s among many other foods. People will also say sugar = death. But, is consuming sugar a real nutrition concern?
An Apple a Day…
Sugar has been used in the diet since Adam took his first bite of an apple…that is a fructose sugar-based apple! Sugar is simply a carbohydrate that the body digests and turns into energy or stores as energy in the liver or fat cells to be used later. Yes, there are many forms of sugars, and the body has the ability to digest them all (except for sugar alcohol). But is every type of sugar the same? Are some healthier than others? With this new concern for sugar, the focus has quickly turned to avoiding all types, even those composed of natural sugars like fruit and honey.
Should You Avoid All Sugars?
As a registered dietitian, I have seen fads come and go. Foods move from the good list to the bad list and then back to the good list again. Remember the fat free craze in the 1990’s? Now we are telling people to eat healthy fats and lots of them! Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think we shall ever tell people to go crazy on sugar, but I also don’t think sugar should be shunned either.
Balance is always the key to a healthy diet. It is about portion control, food integrity, quality and function. It is also about enjoying the food you eat and savoring the flavor. It is about:
- Getting back to nature, that is “natural foods,” and not lab foods or man-made chemically derived foods
- Eating food that the body can process, digest and use as fuel
- Macro nutrients and micro nutrients and the body’s fundamental need to survive.
The problem with eating habits in America is lack of balance. We go from unhealthy extremes such as consuming too much sugar or unrefined carbs, to cutting it out of our diets entirely. This can cause a ripple effect in one’s health. For example, weight going up and down. Complete avoidance of certain foods can cause cravings that are difficult to tame when food boredom sets in.
I honestly don’t believe one single nutrient can devastate the body. There are so many outside factors that can cause disease and poor health even beyond the diet. The body is still a medical mystery, and every day we learn more.
Why Does Betsy’s Best Use Small Amounts of Three Different Sugars?
I am often asked why I add a small amount of three types of sugar to my gourmet nut and seed butters. Demerara, honey and stevia are my sweeteners of choice. I simply say, “well, I’m a sweet girl!” All kidding aside, I am not scared of sugar in small amounts when it is high quality and balanced with other nutrients. In fact if food has flavor it is more enjoyable, and I choose to enjoy my food while fueling with nutrients. It is the best of both worlds and makes eating a healthier diet fun, interesting and sustainable.
Why not love your food? I was very careful when making my choices of ingredients and wanted the best quality and a combination that would provide a great experience.
Organic Stevia Leaf Extract
Stevia is a non-sugar-based herb that mimics the sweet taste of sugar but without the insulin response that sugar causes. Many people avoid stevia for the fear of the bitter aftertaste it can sometime provide. I selected a high-quality stevia that removes the bitter stem for a smoother taste.
Demerara sugar is the ingredient I get asked about the most. Many people have never heard of Demerara, let alone know how to pronounce it! It is often used in Europe because it is one of the most natural sugars, similar to a terbanaro or sugar in the raw. However, Demerara is much more natural and purer than other sugars.
Demerara sugar is the first crystallization off of the sugar cane plant. I like to compare it to Pink Himalayan Salt (also another ingredient I use) because it contains minerals and has not been stripped of nutrients. The large crystals that form with Demerara also help contribute to the light crunchy texture of my butters, along with the Pink Himalayan Salt and chia seeds. When you bite down on them, you experience a burst of flavor and a unique experience. Demerara sugar also has notes of caramel which give my nut and seed butters a wonderful flavor!
Honey is a very natural source of sweetness and also contains antioxidants. However, I chose not to sweeten my butters with only honey because it greatly changes the consistency and mouth feel. It can make the butter very sticky and hard to use. The small amount I use adds a great taste while not negatively affecting the texture.
I also choose to use organic honey that helps to protect bees and provides optimal nutrients to people. In order to be organic, “the flowers that the bees get the nectar from have not been sprayed with chemicals. … As long as beekeepers’ control where the bees go, they’ll know that they’re getting honey from organic flowers.”
In three of my butters, Betsy’s Best Gourmet Almond Butter, Gourmet Seed Butter and Gourmet Peanut Butter, I purposely paired honey with cinnamon. Combining honey and cinnamon provides additional benefits when consumed together rather than if consumed separately.
How Much Added Sugar Does Betsy’s Best Have Per Serving?
My Gourmet Almond Butter has 2 grams of sugar on the low end, and my Gourmet Seed Butter has 4 grams of sugar on the high end. My other butters (Gourmet Peanut Butter, Gourmet Cashew Cardamom Butter, and Gourmet Toasted Coconut Cashew Butter) contain 3 grams of sugar, and adding stevia allows me to accomplish that. I also added chia seeds that have fiber, and combined with the nuts and seeds, contain healthy fats and protein that lowers the glycemic index and net carbohydrates.
Keep in mind that nuts and seeds themselves have at least 1 gram of natural sugar, so I am only adding an additional 2-3 grams of sugar per serving.
Flavor and Balance Are Important
So, I admit it, I am a sweet gal, but a mindful one too. I want my food to be fun, interesting, playful and delicious….but most importantly, Nut-ritious!
I want people to be able to enjoy my gourmet nut and seed butters on a spoon or use them as a unique ingredient to enhance any recipe.
I want my butters to provide function and flavor, yet be balanced enough that you can enjoy them every day.
Let’s face it, if you have a sweet tooth, eliminating all sugar will leave you craving sugar. Betsy’s Best is the perfect low-sugar sweet treat to help you sustainably reduce your daily sugar intake.
By all means, we should avoid foods that have excessive amounts of added sugar. Heck, even some popular chocolate hazelnut spreads have close to 30g of added sugar. A lot of fat-free foods (dinosaurs from the “fat is bad” era) are loaded with too much sugar to make them taste better. These are foods to be avoided. But, avoiding all sugar is generally not sustainable and causes people to avoid eating healthy foods such as bananas and apples.
While some people choose to eat a very restrictive, unbalanced diet that might eventually be proven to be unhealthy, I shall be sitting back, licking my spoon and enjoying every last bite of my Betsy’s Best Gourmet Nut and Seed Butters!