Are You Using the Wrong Sweetener?

Originally published for Yoga Central on October 5, 2012.

We all fall for cupcakes and cookies every once in a while. My weak spot is pastries. Give me a chocolate-filled croissant and I am a happy lady. But these little treats of delight hold dangerous double-edged swords. They make us happy for a few hours and at a heavy price. The culprit? Processed white sugarcane.

There’s a ton of discussion on the effects of processed sugarcane. According to the UK Macrobiotics Guide, “refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, no enzymes, only empty calories…Your body must borrow vital nutrients from healthy cells to metabolize the incomplete food. Calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium are taken from various parts of the body to make use of the sugar””. Aaah! Macrobiotics, by the way, follows the philosophy that the food you eat has a powerful effect on your overall well-being and happiness. I think that’s pretty obvious.

Although we know the dangers, we still follow our cravings. How do we satisfy this sweet tooth without such negative consequences? For Pete’s sake, avoid “natural” sweeteners. Fructose, brown sugar, and turbinado sugar are as refined and concentrated as white sugar and have similar effects. Don’t let the little pink Equal packets fool you! Stevia, another sweetener option, is derived from the plant Stevia rebaudiana. In it’s plant form, it is up to 300 times sweeter than sugarcane. Antonio Zamora with the Scientific Psychic breaks down the chemical structure of both natural and artificial sweeteners. If you’ve been in the baking aisle lately, you’ve probably seen the products Truvia and PureVia. While these certainly contain stevia, they also have erythritol, a low-calorie sugar alcohol sweetener and mysterious “natural flavors.” Not exactly pure, is it?

My preferred sugar alternative, in my opinion, beats all of these. Drum roll please. The delicious, wonderful honey! I’ve become a huge fan of honey, especially raw honey. Especially quality raw honey. I use it in my cold formulas, in canker sore treatment, in delicious food.

I can thank Anthony Baron Kirk, Founder and Bee Chief of Aseda Raw Honey, for introducing me to this spectacular stuff. Aseda means “gratitude” in the Ashanti-Tivi, Gongas, and Dagomba languages of Ghana. In the northern part of the country, remote villages collect honey in the prehistoric Mole National Forest. The honey is authentically untouched by industrial farming. The company’s mission is “to spread raw wild forest honey from Africa across the world in a way that supports the tribes that harvest the honey in a way that is sustainable.” Best of all, they are located right in our salty city. I wrote about Aseda Raw Honey a few weeks ago, so you should check that article out for more info.

Why consider honey as a universal sweetener?

– Harmonizes the liver. Honey’s great thing for hangovers or when you have a ton of fats in your system. It’s even been known to help break the cycle of alcoholism. Just take a tablespoon when the need for a drink arises.

– Moistens dryness. Dissolving some honey in warm water or tea makes for a wonderful drink. I use this all the time for colds and morning hoarseness.

– Reduces stress. It’s a pick-me-up when you’re overworked or exhausted from rich foods.

– Heightens athletic performance.
The cocktail of sugars in honey gives the body the resources to take it to the next level. Aseda Honey sells these cute little athletic packets that you can get at many coffee and tea shops around the valley.

– Heals wounds. Honey slaughters bacteria with the might of an army. Cynthia Graber explains in the Scientific American that the honey forms hydrogen peroxide, a natural antiseptic, as the glucose breaks down in air. It’s like pouring that stinging stuff from the brown bottle onto your wound, but much more pleasant.

We may think to ourselves that one cookie at the office to break that mid-day hump won’t hurt. But instead of reaching for the refined, processed, concentrated sugar disaster, consider keeping a jar of honey stashed away. Your body will thank you for it.