Let's talk sweeteners

Let's talk sweeteners

Seems like everyone is talking about sugar these days, and for good reason - refined sugars often find their way into so many of our foods, contributing to health concerns, including the alarming rise of diabetes in the US. Let's explore some sugar terminologies - distinguishing between refined and unrefined varieties, exploring low-glycemic options, and learning about alternatives like inulin.

Refined Sugar: Refined sugar, often derived from sugarcane or sugar beets, undergoes extensive processing, stripping away its natural nutrients and fiber content. What's left behind is pure sucrose, devoid of any beneficial compounds. This highly concentrated form of sugar is commonly found in everyday products like sodas, candies, and baked goods.

Examples of Refined Sugar: Think of granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup—all prevalent forms of refined sugar. These are the sugars we're often cautioned to consume in moderation due to their negative impact on our health.

Unrefined Sugar: On the flip side, unrefined sugars maintain much of their natural goodness. They're less processed and contain trace minerals and vitamins. Options like coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, and molasses fall under this category, offering a more wholesome alternative to their refined counterparts.

Examples of Unrefined Sugar: Coconut sugar, derived from the sap of coconut palm trees, boasts a lower glycemic index than refined sugars, meaning it doesn't cause the same rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Honey, a natural sweetener produced by bees, contains antioxidants and antibacterial properties, making it a healthier choice for sweetening your tea or drizzling over your yogurt. Maple syrup, extracted from maple trees, is rich in manganese and zinc, adding nutritional value to your morning pancakes.

Low-Glycemic: The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates based on their effect on blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI are digested more slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar levels and providing sustained energy release. Opting for low-glycemic sweeteners like coconut sugar or agave nectar can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Inulin: Unlike traditional sugars, inulin is a type of soluble fiber found in plants like chicory root. It's not sweet on its own but can be used as a sugar substitute due to its ability to mimic the mouthfeel of sugar. In addition to its low-calorie content, inulin acts as a prebiotic, nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your gut and promoting digestive health.

At NAWI, we use a proprietary blend of low-glycemic sweeteners - coconut sugar, lúcuma and yacón. Lúcuma, a fruit native to South America, has a subtly sweet flavor and low glycemic index, making it a popular choice for those seeking healthier alternatives to sugar. It's often used in powder form as a natural sweetener in smoothies, desserts, and baked goods. Yacón, another South American treasure, not only boasts a low glycemic index but also contains significant amounts of inulin. This sweet-tasting root vegetable is often consumed raw, powdered, or as a syrup, offering a delicious way to sweeten recipes while promoting gut health and supporting blood sugar control.


The conversation around sugar doesn't have to be daunting. By understanding the differences between refined and unrefined sugars, opting for low-glycemic alternatives, and exploring innovative options like inulin, we can make informed choices that support our health. Next time you reach for something sweet, consider the source of your sugar and its impact on your body.

Try our sweetener blend for yourself in NAWI's Superfood Brownie Mix! https://nawihealth.com/products/superfood-brownie-mix

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