Monday, May 12, 2008

Glycemic Index and The Difficulty in Being Sugar-Free

In my quest to research all I can about sugar and use alternative, "healthy" sweeteners, I have come across a lot of variables having to do with health. One example is honey. It is natural. I eat it non-pasteurized so that it still contains active enzymes/bacteria that have proven health benefits. (The downside with non-pasteurized honey is that it crystallizes sitting on the shelf, but can be heated to liquefy it again.) However, I did some research this morning and found that honey has a high glycemic index--(which, as a reminder, "the glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers—the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response," courtesy of

Certain organizations promote honey as only having a glycemic index (GI) of 5o, which is considered low. Others have found that honey is about as bad as white refined sugar in this respect, with a GI of 83, which is high. Here is an interesting piece of research I found: Scroll down to where it says, "Is Honey Really Low Glycemic?" There are some great leads to research that has been done on this. My concern is that I have found honey to be a great alternative to white refined sugar, but if it causes my blood sugar to sky-rocket, is it really a healthy alternative to sugar?

If you would like to see the USDA's breakdown of nutrients/types of sugars in honey, go here: It is fascinating! I had no idea that honey contained sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose and galactose!

Also, I looked up a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which concludes, "...there is often no difference in responses [blood sugar responses] between foods containing added sugars and those containing naturally-occurring sugars,"

Is my plight in vain? Am I cheating myself of the benefits of a "sugar-free" diet if I continue to eat other kinds of sweeteners that aren't much healthier? Part of my goal was to see how easy/hard it is to achieve eating food without refined sugars in them. I have found that most packaged foods contain sugar and that it is very difficult to be sugar-free in an uncontrolled food environment like a restaurant, cafe, someone else's house, group function, etc. My hang-up at the moment is do I cut out other sweeteners that are practically as bad as white sugar? I wonder how I would feel if I only ate fruit and vegetable sugars and not honey or maple syrup or other sugar substitutes? Could I go without the desserts that those sweeteners have allowed me so far? I have to think about it. I could really use suggestions/comments at this point! Help!


Jeff said...

Your plight is not in vein . . .your quest is about sugar...white REFINED sugar. It's a food shortcut and it's hurting Americans...and the world.

Maybe you should research the entire process of refining sugar...there might be interesting facts along the way. I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian, but I have always wanted to know the story behind "bone char" and its use in the refining process.

Lastly, honey can't be that bad...or we would have diabetic bears . . .right?

Linds said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm anxious to check out more of your thoughts, I saw a cookie recipe below that I'm looking forward to trying.

Interesting thoughts on honey. I did realize honey was high GI, however for me my goal is moderation for natural sweeteners. For me personally I don't think I would want to go without the desserts and other sweets that these natural sweeteners allow, but that's just me. With having children as well I want to teach them to be able to enjoy sweets in moderation and how to have 'healthier' sweets, part of me would be nervous if I cut out even the natural sweeteners they'd go the opposite direction when they grew up. Just my thoughts...

Thanks again for stopping by and your thoughts, I look forward to reading more!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I don't think you are in vain. You are worried about refined sugars, and I would just echo your other 2 commentors.

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

Mindy said...

At the risk of posting an unoriginal comment, I'd say your efforts are not in vain if you're strictly trying to go without white refined sugar. If your goal were to do that AND avoid the equivalents, then you could probably cut out honey and a whole lot more. The no-sugar experiment you're doing could've had so many levels of restriction if you hadn't set out with such a specific mission. But ultimately what you're discovering about sugar--and also the psychology of food--is meaningful and not futile in the slightest. It seems the more you know, the more there is to know and perhaps that feels overwhelming?
After this year is up, maybe then there is a personal lifestyle decision to make (To eat honey or not to eat honey? Among others!) with all the knowledge you have gained. Even the limited amount of knowledge I've gleaned from your blogs I can't ignore when I'm in the grocery store or other controlled environments. Granted, I still occasionally (aka often) indulge in my favorite sweets, but the "sugar taunts" are never buried too deep in my mind. So thanks a lot! :-)

Can't wait to see you!

Erica said...

Hi Nicole! I love your blog! I don't know if I told you this, but my sister is in nutrition school right now and I'm being her first test client so I'm learning all about raw food, whole grains, refined sugar alternatives and how to eat all natural. I just asked Jeff if you ate agave nectar because that's what she told me to eat and I really like it, but I saw your list and you already do. I've been looking at glycemic indexes of foods recently and I think it's crazy that agave nectar can actually change it's glycemic index depending on what foods you are eating it with. I'm looking forward to keeping up with your blog :)

Real said...

Keep up the good work - your blog is very interesting. You will be doing us all a great service if you can keep it up for a year so we can see how to do it.
Don't give up!

It's just a matter of changing the way we eat - but it's difficult - almost impossible - when we're bombarded and surrounded with fattening, sugar-laden foods. I want to see how you do it! :)

If you eliminate refind sugars - the biggies beinng white sugar and corn syrup - you'll have succeeded in your goals. Basically, we just have to stick to getting food in its most natural and basic forms. Seems like everytime the food processors create a product they think they have to sweeten it - even spaghetti sauce for cryin' out loud! Maybe it's all sugar and food coloring for all we know.

Don't give up!


Samuel A. Falvo II said...

@Jeff: Evolution at work -- bears who acquire diabetes tend to find themselves seriously dead. So, all *we* ever notice are the healthy bears.

This is occuring in us too -- how many times have you heard an elder claim, "When I was your age, we never had to deal with (insert-ailment-here)!!" No, of course not, because had you done so, you'd be ... dead. And, worse, doctors wouldn't have any clue why! If you've had a loved one pass due to "unknown" or "natural" causes, it's likely that it was due to an ailment for which we have a name for now.

And, frankly, I don't think it's the refined white sugar that is doing us all in. Rather, it is the high-fructose corn syrup. Studies have linked HFCS consumption and the rise of type-II diabetes over the decades, and they are very closely linked. This trend exists to a much smaller extent with white sugar.