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October’s 31 Days of Real Food-Day 27

by Olivia Furlow

Day 27-Sugar and Sugar Substitutes


Sugar is a real food right? Isn’t it natural?

Yes, technically it is “natural” since it is made from the sugar cane plant, but it can and mostly is a highly processed version of this plant similar to how white flour is made from the wheat plant. If classify things in this manner we could also say high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is “natural” since it is made from corn. HFCS in the ingredient label of a food product is a definite indicator that it has been highly processed.The corn used to create it is quite likely to be genetically modified. HFCS is found in ketchup, peanut butter, soda, candy, breakfast syrups, and much, much more!

In processed food there are now some forty types of sugar used….most common on an ingredient label is:

barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, cane juice, corn sweetener, dextrin, dextrose, fructo-oligosaccharides, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, sucrose, invert sugar, polydextrose, sucrose, turbinado sugar

There are also the sweeteners you can find in the grocery store baking aisle such as:

Splenda, Stevia, Equal, agave syrup, corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, Sweet-n-Low, brown sugar

Choose honey or 100% maple syrup as real food sweeteners. Stick with purchasing raw and/or local honey from local farmers’ markets. I have searched high and low for a store-bought product containing 5 or less ingredients and honey or maple syrup as the sweetener. One may exist, but I have not found it.

What about “sugar free”?

When a packaged food advertises “Sugar Free,” that oftentimes means the real sugar has been left behind and replaced with an artificial sweetener. Another reason why it is so important to always read ingredient labels! Did you know that artificial sweeteners were literally invented in a lab by food scientists and most artificial sweeteners only entered our food system as recently as a few decades ago? That is practically brand new in a world where people have been eating for tens of thousands of years. The Sugar Association says these artificial replacements are “chemically manufactured molecules. Molecules that do not exist in nature.”

Some “Sugar Free” Examples
Clearly I see loads of other problems with these ingredient labels, but I am just sticking to the topic at hand today




Artificial Sweetener Cheat Sheet

Artificial sweeteners come under a variety of different types and brand names, which makes them one of the many confusing aspects of packaged foods.


I want to address Stevia because it is confused with being a healthy sweetener because it originates from a plant and is somewhat trendy right now.

What Is Stevia?

For those of you that are hearing about stevia for the first time, it is a plant that is typically grown in South America, and while its extract is 200 times sweeter than sugar, it does not raise blood insulin levels. That’s what makes it so popular.

Stevia is highly processed using a patentable chemical-laden process…so processed that Truvia (Coca-Cola’s branded product) goes through about 40 steps to process the extract from the leaf, relying on chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens, substances that cause cancer, and none of those ingredients sound like real food, do they?

The 40-step patented process used to make Truvia should make you want to steer clear of this stevia product alone, but there are two other concerning ingredients added. First, erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar that is sometimes found in fruit, but food manufacturers don’t actually use the natural stuff. Instead they start with genetically engineered corn and then go through a complex fermentation process to come up with chemically pure erythritol.

The second concerning ingredient is “Natural flavors” added to powdered and liquid stevia products. This is due to the fact that once the stevia leaf is processed it can develop a metallic taste. Manufactured natural flavor makes it difficult to stop eating or drinking because the flavors they have synthesized will trick your mind into wanting more and more. When companies use manufactured flavor, they are literally “hijacking” your taste buds so put products that contain “natural flavors” back on the shelf!

“Stevia in the Raw” sounds pure and natural, but when you look at the ingredients the first thing on the label is dextrose so it’s certainly not just stevia in the raw. Dextrose is a sweetener that’s also derived from genetically engineered corn and has a long complicated manufacturing process, just like erythritol.

Even certified organic stevia can have sneaky ingredients added. They usually add more organic agave inulin than the stevia extract itself. Agave inulin is a highly processed fiber derivative from the blue agave plant. Also on the ingredient list is an item you are probably familiar with from those little packets sometimes found in boxed goods…silica. You know the one that says “DO NOT EAT”.silica_gel_do_not_eat2

It is added to improve the flow of powdery substances and is the same ingredient that helps strengthen concrete and creates glass bottles and windowpanes. It may cause irritation of the digestive tract and irritation of the respiratory tract. While it is non-toxic and probably won’t kill you in small quantities, it’s definitely not a real food ingredient I would cook with or that I want to be putting in my body.

A real food way of eating Stevia is purchasing the pure dried stevia leaves online and grind them up using a spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle for your own powdered stevia. You can add fresh or dried leaves directly to tea or drinks for natural sweetness. When choosing products already sweetened with stevia, look for “whole leaf stevia” on the ingredient label.


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