A Paleo Conversation : From CST to PST, a bi-regional take on living paleo.
  • One lump, or two?

    Greetings to you!

    What a wonderful market!  Reading your post, I sat here thinking how marvellous it must have been, and wondered out loud (yet to myself) why *I* haven’t been going to farmer’s markets this year the way I usually do.  Then the baby started crying and all in a rush I remembered why.  It’ll be more fun next year when I’m not constantly circling the baby and the breast-pump.

    Here are some photos from a market in Barcelona I visited in grad school.  It was completely spectacular and I’d love to go back.  Ostrich eggs!  Seafood galore!  Minnesota does well with farmer’s markets, but not a patch on this…

    Check out the ostrich eggs for 15 euros each!
    Check out the ostrich eggs for 15 euros each!
    Tasty little critters!
    Tasty little critters!
    Gorgeous little beasts...
    Gorgeous little beasts…

    I love that picture of Henry!  I know John would have been exactly the same, even down to the choice of cheese pizza.  Heck, if it didn’t mean days of tummy upset, I’d be tempted too 😉

    All here is well. This week I’ve been thinking about sugar.  Trying to organize my thinking on it.  Partially this is prompted by the coursework for the Primal Blueprint Certification, and partially by watching my honeybees and bumblebees in the garden.  One of them stung me on the bum, and though I did a bit of dancing and cursing as a result I’m still thrilled that they are enjoying my garden.  I particularly love the bumblebees (Dumbledores!) and am reminded of an old joke my dad tells about an aeronautics engineer who studied bumblebees and told a friend that he’d come to the conclusion that bumblebees can’t fly.  It’s impossible.  The friend promptly shushed him, “Shh! Don’t tell the bees!”.

    The way I see it, there are a few ways to approach sugar and paleo.

    • Total Ban – like the Whole 30.
    • Strict Restriction – like Primal Blueprint, avoid added sugars but there is some flexibility in the famous 80/20 rule/escape clause.
    • Moderate Avoidance – this isn’t so much tied to a plan as it is a reflection of what happens when perceived paleo-friendly sugars are used particularly when making “paleo” treats.

    I vacillate between these three levels. I don’t worry much about a spoonful of sugar here and there, and I tend to steer clear the profusion of paleo sweets since I’m working on losing weight.

    The major sugars I’m thinking about here are glucosefructose, and sucrose (white table sugar) which is made of a glucose stuck to a fructose.

    In all the paleo brownie recipes etc. that are out there, many of which are delicious and can be perfectly sensible treats (no judging here!) the sweetener called for is often honey, maple syrup, or (less often) agave syrup. The perception is that they are a healthier choice than white sugar (debatable) and that they are delicious (absolutely!)

    Apart from a few trace minerals, I don’t see how these are better for you than white sugar? Tastier certainly… but I have a hard time believing they are healthier.

    Ultimately, based on the reading I’ve done, I believe fructose is worse for you than glucose, and that people should limit all sugars in the diet.  It also seems to me that many of the fashionable paleo sweeteners are heavy on the fructose, and as such I tend to try and avoid them, but I don’t get paranoid about it.  Though I don’t use added sugars very often at all (except when making kombucha!), I tend to use white sugar or coconut sugar when I do.

    • Honey is a mixture of glucose and fructose in varying amounts.  Sometimes the glucose crystallizes out and you get crunchy honey, sometimes (like Tupelo honey) there isn’t much glucose, it’s mainly fructose and it doesn’t crunch up. I know there are some groovy enzymes and micronutrients and the like in there, but once it’s been baked into a brownie – are they still significant? Are they degraded by heat? Do you get enough in a sensible serving to make it worth it?  As far as I can tell (Wikipedia) honey that is heavy on the fructose is comparable to public enemy number one, high-fructose corn syrup.
    • Maple Syrup also contains a few groovy micronutrients, seems to be lower in fructose than honey but has more than white sugar (according to the University of Vermont).
    • Agave Syrup is very high in fructose and reportedly has saponins and other unfriendlies in it.  Can’t recommend it.
    • Coconut Sugar is mostly sucrose, and the rest is balanced between glucose and fructose.

    Mark Sisson covers this all a lot better than I can.  Robert Lustig has a great video on sugars here,  and there’s a good rebuttal  of Lustig here.

    I know you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I’m very interested in your thoughts on this.  Am I off base?  Should I refine my thinking?  Or do I need a chill-pill and a cocktail, and to not overthink it especially since I don’t have much anyway?

    That having been said, I’ll never pass up a paleo brownie if one is handed to me!





I've been paleo since I discovered four years ago that it could help me manage my Hashimoto's Thyroiditis among other things. The more I learn the more I want to learn and the less I feel that there is any one solution out there that will work for all of us. I try to advocate for paleo and lessons from paleo without being a crashing bore at parties, with perhaps only moderate success. I was born and raised in England, then Oklahoma, then Minnesota. I'm married to one of the world's most patient men, and I've got two pretty nifty sons and a dog. I've a background in science, design, and communications.


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