Sugar

Q&A

“Where are you finding unsweetened cranberries, I can’t find any without sugar?”
“You say you like Trader Joe’s sunbutter, but it has sugar in it – why are you eating that?”
“My unsweetened almond butter has 2 grams of sugar, should I not eat that?”

Here’s the thing. Sugar is everywhere. No matter what you do, how you live your life (unless you move to the bush and slaughter your own dinner), you’re going to have some sugar in your diet. Even then, that wild strawberry growing in the field is going to tempt you.

We moderate sugar in our home. We never consume HFCS and avoid foods with added sugars higher than 5-10 grams, depending on what it is we’re eating and how much of a “treat” it is.  Dark chocolate with 4g per serving, yes please. Trader Joe’s infinitely more tasty sunflower seed butter with only a couple grams of added sugar over the other brand with none? Absolutely. Organic quick & easy ketchup with 2 more grams of sugar than the unsweetened one next to it that my kids won’t touch? Yup. Paying 50% less for cranberries with sugar added that only increases the content by 3g? Deal.

Think about how much of the sugar is going into your body, what affect it may have on your children’s liver and overall behavior in the situation you’re in and make an informed decision. We can’t do that for you – but, we’ve officially shared our strategy.

“Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, Dates, Maple Syrup and more Sugar”

I don’t quite know why we’re a lightning rod for it, but we get a relatively high number of comments and emails about our use of sugar. Perhaps it’s because we’re active in both the paleo and gluten-free communities and our baked good posts attract a lot of attention from the gluten-free folks. Maybe it’s because we actively share our family and giving kids sugar is a little unseemly. Maybe it’s because people have crankies in their pants from not indulging their sweet tooth every once in a while.

I will admit, about once every week or two we will post something that is a dessert and is therefore higher in sugar. Most of our posts, however, are about making dinner, or breakfast or often do not involve recipes at all. Also, you’ll also notice all of our “sugar” posts have less sugar than you’d normally expect from a similar food. None of our recent recipes include (controversial) stevia or agave, either.

Remember: sugar is not inherently bad for you. Your body runs off of sugar and, correct me if I’m wrong big nutritional geniuses, converts your fats and proteins to sugar in order to use them. The problem is overindulgence and addiction to sugar. Sweetness has such a euphoric effect on the brain that it makes you need to eat more and more of it. Few people overindulge in steak, many overindulge in chocolate. The evolutionary hypothesis is that sugar used to only mean fruit, which goes bad or gets eaten quickly. If you’re tasting something sweet, your brain says you better eat as much of it as you can because it won’t be around for long!

There are many ways to live a paleo lifestyle.

It’s doesn’t make you not paleo and only grain-free to eat dates mixed with eggs and ground almonds. Not everyone needs or wants to do a full low carb paleo diet. Stacy does great on low carb, where I have a much easier time retaining muscle eating more. The kids are very active, they can’t go very low carb. Heck, you’ve seen some of the beasts who advocate paleo talk about eating higher carb, because they know it’s what their bodies need.

So, here’s the thing. If you don’t like sweets and have a hard time resisting our recipes, we understand if you can’t follow us anymore. It’s your choice, and we appreciate every moment you chose to spend with us here. But, it’s not fair to us and other followers if you don’t like something to have a tantrum about it. Do what we do in other aspects of our lives, use your consumer feet to go in another direction.

This is a family blog.

We’ve got plenty of strong opinions on a lot of topics, and we do our best to share our stories, recommendations and experiences in a way that as much of a broad population, as is possible, can identify with. Because that’s what’s important to us – getting the world on-board. We ask that you respect this tone and not create unnecessary drama by instigating arguments in comments of recipe posts – just don’t read them anymore.

We’ve found that what a lot of people need isn’t more meat or veggie recipes… although we love making and sharing those. What people can’t figure out in their own kitchen is how to replace wheat flour and white sugar with healthier alternatives. Nut flours don’t work the same way, it’s a science and a lot of people need a guide on how to approach it. We’re thrilled that in sharing those recipes, people report that it helps them succeed in this lifestyle and that they are using them to help craft memories with their family.

If treats are not for you, we absolutely understand.

We ourselves have given up sugar for 3 weeks because we (by our own definitions and standards) were eating too much. Dessert was more regular than occasional and our family (by our own definitions and standards) needed a reset after the holidays. It’s important you listen to your body, and we did just that. (p.s. it’s not to late to join us – get the guide and join the facebook group!)

When we do use sweeteners, we’ll use a more healthy sugar than is usually used.

Each baking site we visit is different, we have personal favorites because their choices or tastes are similar to ours. When you’re using our recipes, these are our sweeteners of choice and why.

Dates

Often, we’ll make a date paste by pureeing some medjool dates. Now, dates are high in fructose sugar, but are accompanied by an incredibly high fiber per gram content (one date has 1.6 grams of fiber, which is pretty crazy). The fiber helps you process your sugars, so the effect approaches neutral. This is similar to our use of ripe bananas, apples and applesauce.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup, which I grew up with in New England, is not the same as Aunt Jemima’s. Stacy was shocked to find out the other day that those products contain exactly no natural ingredients and are, instead, sugar with flavorings. Maple syrup is boiled maple tree sap and is about the most delicious thing ever discovered. The best part is that it is solely sucrose (which, in turn, means it is equally balanced between fructose and glucose).

Honey

The seemingly most obvious paleo sweetener, raw honey is simply filtered from bee hives. We love it because it actually has the potential to help with seasonal allergies, something we used to suffer from (bees & pollen – science, people – it works!). Of course “regular” honey (pasteurized) can be used as well, it has nutrients and a relatively close profile of fructose to glucose. We find it’s about the same sweetness as table sugar, so we can use much less and gain nutrients in the process.

(Coconut) Palm Sugar

We’re sorry! Before we’ve been telling you about how palm sugar destroys coconut trees, which is what we’ve been told. Well, turns out that’s probably not true. So, we’ve switched back to using this lower glycemic, vitamin and mineral rich, unprocessed granulated sweetener.

 

If you’re looking for more information on our ingredients, why we use them and where to find them, be sure to check out our relatively new page: Our Funny Ingredients, which include links to our favorite sources for these and other products.

For more information on sugar and paleo, here are some other great posts:

The Dish on Sugars and Sweeteners by Balanced Bites

The 21 Day Sugar Detox by Primal Palate

Added Sweeteners by Fast Paleo

 

About Matthew

Matthew McCarry has written 222 post in this blog.

Matt is the husband of Stacy and somehow manages to contribute to this blog in between taking care of three children, producing the Paleo View Podcast and cooking most of the food featured here.