How much sugar is in a cupcake | Cooking Light feature | Recipe RenovatorI always look forward to receiving my monthly installment of Cooking Light, and in renovating recipes for the blog as part of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection. The November issue just arrived, and I was interested to see their take on sugar consumption. While I didn’t agree 100% with their position, it’s a well reasoned and researched article that’s definitely worth reading. First off, we really don’t have any idea how much sugar is in prepared foods, so I was fascinated to see that this cupcake from a national chain contained 71 grams of sugar. Yikes!

Sugar In Foods | Cooking Light feature | Recipe RenovatorNext, they showed this spread of foods on the sugar spectrum, from red wine (with 1 gram of naturally occurring sugar) to a berry smoothie with 75 g of sugar (70% naturally occurring).

I thought this was an excellent way to make people aware of the sugar in foods and whether it’s added or naturally occurring. I think the graphic could have been stronger, maybe using red for added sugar and green for naturally occurring sugar, to help drive home the point, as it’s a little hard to read and process the information.

I hope that people study it and take away the message that because there’s so much added sugar on top of naturally occurring sugars, it’s important to choose foods that don’t have added sugar. While it’s a little shocking that the berry smoothie (as shown) has more sugar than the cupcake, hopefully it will make people ask more questions and consider their sugar intake. They do make the point on another page that sugar is only one nutritional component, and I feel that a berry smoothie (with no added sugar) is going to provide a LOT more nutrition than a caramel frappucino, but it’s also good for me to think about that berry smoothie as dessert. (And, to add some kale to it.)

It’s also a great reminder to buy unsweetened nut milk, yogurt, and other items if you’re not making them yourself.
Healthy sweeteners? Cooking Light feature | Recipe RenovatorThis is where I start diverging from their recommendations. While I totally agree that all sugar should be eaten in very small amounts (and not daily), it doesn’t make any sense to me to say that bleached white sugar or high-fructose corn syrup is basically the same as other sugars that are far less processed and closer to the plant they came from.

I do choose natural sugars for taste when baking, but I disagree that they are the same. I know from my experience that items made with white sugar affect my own health far differently than ones made with coconut sugar or agave syrup. White sugar is boiled, the molasses extracted, then it’s bleached and tumbled to make crystals of uniform size. Compare that to this video showing how they make coconut sugar, collecting sap from the coconut tree flowers and then simply boiling and stirring it until it forms crystals:

It stands to reason that, even in small quantities, lightly processed food is going to be better for you than something that’s been bleached.

Cake recipe using different sugars | Cooking Light feature | Recipe RenovatorThis was the most interesting part of the story, although I had a completely different takeaway. They made a traditional pound cake recipe (which I thought was weird, since they are Cooking Light) using white sugar and then the same recipe using five other sweeteners, cup for cup.

The photo is a great illustration of why I sometimes have to make recipes 4 or more times before I share them on the blog. There’s a lot of trial and error in making these substitutions.

But I totally disagree with their conclusion: that you’re better off using white sugar because you can guarantee the result. Instead I would say: choose recipes from blogs you trust, that have been tested, and be aware that making substitutions of any kind will lead to big variations in your results, as this photo shows. Darker sugars will shorten baking times, and all substitutions will affect the texture of your finished product. If you’re looking to reduce your sugar intake, choose a cookbook that specializes in that, like Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free from Ricki Heller.

Because both obesity and diabetes are huge problems in our country, I wish they had come down harder on sugar, especially white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

But I still love the magazine and totally support their overall message of health. Now I’m off to make a kale smoothie…