As my personal quest for alternatives to highly refined white sugar has been ongoing for many years, I needed to make the chemistry of sweet simple for myself and my family.

Agave syrup is the second newest addition to my sweetening (or, saccharide) cupboard — pomegranate molasses being the newest jewel. Both agave syrup and pomegranate molasses have one of the three forms of digestible carbohydrate (all come from plant foods) termed a monosaccharide (a group name of the simplest sugars). These single-carbon monosaccharides are categorized three more times into glucose (dextrose), fructose (levulose) and galactose (from milk).

Some have more nutrients left over after combustion than others. Agave has fructose monosaccharides metabolized differently than sucrose (sugar). These are more slowly absorbed into the body, excite fewer secretions of insulin (see low glycemic rating) — and undergo processing through the liver before they reach other organs. Substituting agave for other sweeteners or non-sweeteners can be too much for an already overburdened liver — especially in those with blood-sugar issues. It is double the sweetness, so sugar in recipes must be halved.

If corn syrup is one of the first ingredients listed on a label, it is one of the main ingredients, and so you can bet that the product may contribute carbohydrates as an energy source, but little else. And, further, that those carbs, gram for gram the same calories as sugar, will end up as unhealthy fat in your body — it is their prime programming. Original corn syrup was made by Peruvians and Mexicans from the stalks of the corn plant rather than the kernels used today making it a processed juice from grass (corn is classified as a grass, zea mays or maize). Agave nectar is processed from green cactus foliage that grows in the same geographical area as the original corn syrup. Both are pressed and boiled similar to the process used for sorghum molasses. High-fructose corn syrup so prevalent in processed food everywhere is enzyme-treated corn KERNAL (seed) syrup heated to high enough temperature that the glucose converts to fructose, which, by the way, tastes sweeter when cold. Since 1987 when aspartame was mass-marketed, fake-energy sweet, dangerously addictive, continues to become a slow suicidal hunger for millions.

Disaccharides are the double sugar molecules that food designers still have a field day with in creating marketable combinations in response to the ever-increasing consumer demand for this double-bonded energy buzz associated with the sweet taste.

Watch for "taste buttons" to be offered in magazines, etc., as food scientists take "scratch & sniff" into consumable advertising for food tastes. What brilliance in marketing plastic food — put out a bit that dissolves in your mouth with the fake taste of some food and then market the "food" with the same fake taste and the consumer soon won’t know the difference.

Here we find three further classifications: sucrose (glucose + fructose) make up cane, beet, maple sugar and others plus lactose (dairy); maltose (glucose + glucose) found in sprouted grains andbeer. Organic brown sugar, maple syrup, barley malt syrup, molasses all live in this double-bonded unity. Historically, molasses or grain syrup was known as treacle — as in "treacle wells" at Alice’s party in Wonderland. This is jet fuel for every body — few in this class have any nutrients leftover after processing and, when highly processed, leave sludge behind. Blackstrap molasses is the exception; it contains notable levels of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium, according to Whole Food Facts by Evelyn Roehl.

Polysaccharides are multiple sugar molecules in varying lengths and complexity. Here find all the starchy foods — grains, legumes (peas and beans) and root vegetables particularly. These are the slowest to digest of the carbohydrates, and the further from the field they get, the faster the rate of burn (digestion) and the less nutrient return. We know that digesting refined carbohydrates takes enormous amounts of water while the digestion of fat uses little or none of the body’s precious moisture stores. See if you note a correlation between those eating low-fat diets and those continually sipping bottled water? This is just one reason why eating carbohydrates and fats that taste so good together is part of a healthy and nutrient-dense meal.

See Lynn’s Oven Fried Potatoes, even though potatoes are definitely not to be considered a low-calorie food — just really satisfying comfort food with freshly ground salt or malt vinegar — crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Add a filet of sustainable harvested fish and have your own healthful "fish & chips" supper.

Contributing Author Lynn Cameron owns the website and has conducted her own research into the complementary health field since the early seventies.

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