The Case for Sugar
When it comes to food storage, for many people there is nothing wrong with sugar. It stores relatively easily, and if properly stored can last virtually forever. It's also one of the most commonly used ingredients in baking bread, cakes, cookies and all sorts of pastries. If you're putting up preserves, icing a cake, or sweetening your coffee, sugar almost always comes in to play. In fact, such organizations as America's Sugar Association can effectively argue that "sugar makes healthful foods taste good which leads to increased intakes of key vitamins and minerals." It is also a known fact that sugar has been a part of the human diet for over 2000 years. That time frame might be extended much further back if we take into account that sugar, in the form of fructose, is commonly found in many fruits and vegetables, and humans have been eating fruits and vegetable for many millenia. So why not store sugar?
Words of Warning
For many years the answer to that question has been that there is no good reason not to do so. That answer might be changing, however. The usage of refined sugar has been increasing dramatically. Nutritionist Barb Lagoni presents the following figures:
- 1900 – 10 lbs per capita
- 1985 – 124 lbs
- 2000 – 160 lbs
Along with that increased consumption has been a dramatic increase in what some are calling "sugar related diseases."
"You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate the link between sugar and depression," says researcher Therese J. Borchard. "Sugar Feeds Cancer" reads one headline. "Sugar Depresses the Immune System" reads another. "Cut Sugar to Battle Obesity" states yet another. Dr. Natasha Turner is another of these sugar ctitics. In an article written for the Canadian magazine Chatelaine she lists 16 negative side effects of sugar:
- Suppress the immune system
- Contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties
- Produce a significant rise in triglycerides
- Reduce helpful high density cholesterol (HDLs) and raise harmful cholesterol (LDLs)
- Increase the risk of coronary heart disease and high blood pressure
- Increase fasting levels of blood glucose and contribute to diabetes
- Promote tooth decay
- Speed the aging process, causing wrinkles and grey hair
- Contribute to weight gain and obesity
- Cause toxemia during pregnancy
- Increase the risk of fatty liver disease
- Increase the water retention and bloating
- Cause headaches, including migraines
- Increase bacterial fermentation in the colon
- Increase risk of certain types of cancers including breast, colon and prostate
- Increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
In her book Lick the Sugar Habit, Nancy Appleton, PhD, clinical nutritionist, has compiled an even more extensive list. She has found 146 reasons that sugar can be blamed for ruining our health. Although that list is not being reproduced here, the fact that it, and others like it, exists is one more indicator that it might be wise to reconsider both our current level of sugar usage, and the wisdom of making refined sugar such a prominent part of our food storage.
There are, indeed, a number of alternatives that could be chosen as a sugar replacement. When it comes to food storage many experts cite honey as a viable choice. It too stores well, and it has a number of nutritional advantages over plain, white sugar. Christopher Gussa, writing in Natural News, points out that "honey's ability to heal wounds and treat infections is quite notable. It also is known for its antioxidant, antibiotic and antiviral capabilities. Honey is 18 to 20 percent water and is comprised of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose and vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, E, K and beta-carotene, as well as plenty of minerals and enzymes. Raw, unprocessed honey has the most medicinal and nutritional value."
On the other hand, honey might have some drawbacks.
"Although honey is a natural sweetener, it is considered a refined sugar because 96% of dry matter are simple sugars: fructose, glucose and sucrose. It is little wonder that the honey bear is the only animal found in nature with a problem with tooth-decay (honey decays teeth faster than table sugar). Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 65 calories/tablespoon, compared to the 48 calories/tablespoon found in table sugar. The increased calories are bound to cause increased blood serum fatty acids, as well as weight gain, on top of the risk of more cavities." - healingdaily.com
Now this is not to say that you should NOT include sugar or honey in your food storage. The point that is being made is that it may be wise to examine some of the other options, and, yes, there are other options.
At Store-It Foods we once carrried Xagave Agave Nectar, a natural sweetener, that many contend is an ideal sugar replacement. Though no longer apart of our selection, it is stiall available through other sourdes, and many of the experts who have examined the product have selected Xagave as their preferred sweetener over sugar, honey and artificial sweeteners such aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Their reasoning is straight forward: "Xagave is a low-glycemic index food (approximately 30) that will save you 25% to 40% in calories without the harmful effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Sugar is a high glycemic food that has no nutritional value. Honey has as high a glycemic index as sugar. Unlike sugar, Xagave contains natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals, including calcium and iron, and a nutritious fiber, Inulin, that studies have shown provides a number of health benefits. Studies have shown that the powerful combination of a low GI diet and a diet supplemented with inulin provides a number of significant health benefits."
Xagave also stores easily, and is certainly suitable for home storage, although, with a shelf life of 1 1/2 to 2 years, it falls short of the many years in which refined sugar can be kept. It is also a more expensive product than sugar. Still, there are many advantages to using Xagave, so the key is to determine if those advantages outweigh its handful of disadvanatages.
There are, of course, many sugar substitutes on the market. Ideally, the time to choose or reject them is before you find yourself in a position where you need to depend upon what you have placed in food storage. For those on sugar restricted diets, it is also crucial that those decisions be made.