A Sweetener by Any Other Name…

Sugar is sugar, right? Well, not necessarily…

There are many ways you can evaluate sweeteners and an ever-growing number of sweeteners to evaluate. Answering the question “Which one is best?” is increasingly complicated.

We at The Big Carrot are glad you’re asking the question! We encourage informed consumption and strive to provide our customers with as much knowledge as possible about the products they are buying and the foods they are eating and feeding their families.

This is why we have created our new Sweetener Buying Guideline. This traffic light system reflects our storewide approach to sweeteners. The Buying Guideline was designed for our product buyers to guide the choices of ingredients we prioritize, examine and avoid.

Here’s how it works:

Green

– preferred sweeteners, enjoy moderately. Includes organic cane sugars and whole food based sweeteners such as honey.

Yellow

– possible risk, caution recommended. Includes non-organic fructose, grain malts and cane sugar as well as sugar alcohols such as xylitol.

Red

– prohibited sweeteners, avoid. Includes High Fructose Corn Syrup, artificial sweeteners and high GMO risk sweeteners (e.g. conventional beet sugar).

It is important to keep in mind that our Sweetener Buying Guide is more so a reflection of process than nutritional value. We have evaluated sweeteners based on their GMO risk and whether or not they are synthetic. Most sweeteners that are less processed are more nutritionally dense, however that does not guarantee that they are right for you.

So how do you know what, if any, sugar is okay for your body and what questions should you be asking?

As a holistic nutritionist, I like to remind people that it’s ALL ABOUT CONTEXT! To answer the question “should I be eating this?” requires an understanding of the food you are eating, how you are eating it, and how your own body reacts.  When it comes to sugar there are many variables. Are you eating sugars in a whole food product or a refined product? Are you eating sugars in an occasional treat among a diet rich in vegetables, healthy fats and proteins or daily as a meal (e.g. a pastry for breakfast)? From what is your sugar made? Is it primarily sucrose, glucose, fructose or a sugar alcohol?  If you are confused or curious about what kind of sugar you are consuming you can always ask one of the nutritionists on staff.

As we all know, moderation is key. Sugars, in any form (even honey, maple syrup and dried fruit), can suppress the immune system and throw our bodies out of whack so it is important to consume sugars smartly. Start by choosing the best sweeteners for you.

Keep in mind that sugars are best reduced or avoided when:

  • your immune system is compromised
  • you have candida overgrowth
  • you are chronically stressed, fatigued or in pain
  • you are diabetic or pre-diabetic
  • you have digestive issues (IBS, Crohn’s etc.)
  • you are overweight
  • you have high cholesterol
  • you experience depression
  • you experience PMS or menstrual irregularities
  • ADHD, and other issues with cognitive function

When you are looking to enjoy the sweeter stuff we’ve got a handy conversion chart to guide you. This chart outlines the taste, texture and common uses of a variety of sweeteners and how to use them in place of white sugar. The majority of these products are currently available at The Big Carrot and we continue to seek out the best the market has to offer. Check out our website for recipe ideas. Remember, our information desk is staffed with nutritionists that are happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Simple Sugars
Glucose The body’s primary source of fuel. Utilized for immediate energy or stored as fuel (by muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen). Metabolism is facilitated by enzymes glucokinase and hexokinsase as well as insulin (which allows entry into cells).
Fructose Not the preferred energy source of the brain or muscles. Metabolized by the liver with fructokinase enzyme. Does not stimulate release of insulin or production of leptin, which may be problematic for regulation of calorie intake. Connections are now being made between high fructose consumption (specifically added sweeteners) and metabolic syndrome.
Sucrose A disaccharide of glucose and fructose.  Separated into individual components for metabolism. Glucose is utilized first, with excess fructose used for fat synthesis.

Kate McMurray, Certified Holistic Nutritionist

katemcmurraynutrition.com