updated 2/18/2011 5:18:18 AM ET 2011-02-18T10:18:18

SANTA ROSA, Calif., Feb. 18, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- With the many forms of sugar available, from table sugar, to high-fructose corn syrup to agave and honey, understanding the differences between sugars and their effects on the body is not all sweet. Any form of sugar, in excess, weakens the immune system, causes inflammation in the body, and increases the risk for serious health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. When American individuals consumed only 5 lbs of sugar per year, prior to the 1900s, incidences of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease were rare. Today it is estimated that the average American consumes more than 135 lbs of sugar per year! So what is the most healthful sweetener to use in moderation, and which ones should you avoid?

According to Dr. Isaac Eliaz, "forms of sugar that are not processed are better choices than highly processed and refined sugars, for several reasons. Highly refined sugars tend to produce a much higher spike in blood glucose levels than do unprocessed or unrefined sugars. They are also lacking in the trace nutrients that can still be found in unrefined, more natural sugars." Highly refined sugars are very difficult for the body to process, and therefore deplete your nutrient reserves as your body struggles to re-balance itself after ingesting these chemicals.

For natural sweeteners, turn to alternative such as raw honey, real maple syrup (grade B contains more trace minerals) and unprocessed stevia. Again, even these sweeteners should be minimized and if you are diabetic or fighting cancer, all sweeteners should be avoided. After you rid your body of these addictive substances, the cravings will subside and you can better appreciate foods that are naturally sweet on their own.

Raw, unprocessed honey contains a variety of antioxidants, enzymes and trace amounts of vitamins like thiamin and niacin. Dr. Eliaz says, "it also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties, both internally and externally." Raw honey can help to heal wounds because it contains an antiseptic substance called inhibine which acts to promote healing and prevent infection. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe a sore throat or congested bronchial and nasal passages during a cold. Studies have also shown it to have anti-tumor potential, and some research suggests that consuming local, raw honey prior to the spring can help blunt seasonal allergies. Raw honey contains an enzyme that makes it much easier to digest than regular sugar, therefore lowering its effects on blood glucose levels.

Dr. Eliaz believes maple syrup and maple sugar is another alternative to processed sugar. But you have to make sure it's authentic maple syrup from trees, not flavored and filled with high-fructose corn syrup. Although more expensive, maple syrup and sugar are good sources of zinc and manganese, as well as trace amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium.

The stevia plant is native to South America and is extremely sweet in comparison to table sugar. Steviosides and rebaudiosides are the natural compounds in stevia that create its sweet taste, but contain much fewer calories than sugar. It's important to buy the actual dried herb or ground, green stevia, and not the white stevia, as this is a tell tale sign of bleaching and processing.

Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, cyclamate, aspertame, and saccharin are highly controversial, and many, especially aspartame have been directly linked to neurological disorders and other serious problems. These chemicals have can wreak serious havoc on the body and should be avoided completely.

The question of why we consume so much sugar requires a complex answer that involves a multitude of physiological, psychological and environmental factors.  However, as we educate ourselves as to the effects of such over-consumption, and make healthier choices, we can help others to do the same, thus spreading awareness and strengthening ourselves and communities with empowerment and knowledge. For more practical health information, visit www.dreliaz.org , become a fan of Dr. Isaac Eliaz on Facebook or call (707) 583-8622 for an exclusive interview with Dr. Isaac Eliaz.

About Better Health Publishing

Better Health Publishing (BHP) focuses on the publication of key works promoting health and wellness. BHP believes that education and accessible information are the core components of a healthy and sustainable society.

Contact:

Amy Pellegrini

Communications Coordinator

Better Health Publishing

amy@dreliaz.org

(707) 583-8622

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