Sugar is basically poison or a drug and, like poisons or drugs, sometimes small amounts can be fun! What type of sweetener you ingest can make a small impact on your health. Every type of sugar has a negative effect on heath in large amounts whether it's agave syrup or high fructose corn syrup so this article is kind of nitpicky. Nevertheless, it's good to know what sweeteners make what impact on your blood sugar levels. Different sweeteners also have different densities of beneficial nutrients but the levels are too small to be of a substantial health benefit.
Glycemic Index or GI is the measurement in between 0 and 100 of how fast carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels. The faster carbohydrates break down and raise blood sugar, the higher the glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods are preferred because recent studies have shown that a diet involving high GI foods can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Foods that have a GI of 70 or more are considered to be high.
Different sweeteners have different GI levels. Below is a chart to see where your favorite sweetener places on this scale.
Sweeteners and Glycemic Index
|Brown Rice Syrup||25***|
|High Fructose Corn Syrup||87***|
*These values are gathered from University of Sydney's Glycemic Index Database at www.glycemicindex.com
**These values are gathered from www.diabetesnet.com/diabetes_food_diet/glycemic_index.php
***These values are gathered from www.greenmagazines.com/organic/alternative-sugars.php
Note the high GI of high fructose corn syrup. As of this writing, an increasing number of prepared foods are including high fructose corn syrup due to it's affordability. Due to it's high GI most health professionals recommend reducing high fructose corn syrup intake as much as possible.
Keep in mind that regular white sugar tends to have the best flavor in baked goods because it's the most neutral. Using a sweetener other than what a recipe was designed to use usually results in compromising flavor in the baked item. Turbinado sugar isn't as high as refined sugar on the GI scale and tends to not 'color' your baked item's sweetness profile too excessively. It's used frequently in our kitchen.
If you have a sweet tooth it's a good idea to reduce excess high glycemic foods in your diet when convenient, get plenty of exercise and pay attention to protein intake to balance blood sugar levels. Remember that both sugar and moderation are best used in moderation.
Sugar by Uwe Hermann via Flickr
Lollipops by Dhammza via Flickr
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