Brown rice syrup seems to be hidden (and not so hidden) in almost everything these days. It’s in so called “nutrition” bars, cereal, “healthy” ice cream, proteins powders in “brown rice syrup solids” form, and even yogurts. You’ll also find many vegan friendly foods containing brown rice syrup to replace the honey aspect. But is it really healthy for you? It’s from brown rice, so why wouldn’t it be ok, right?
First, you will never see a “brown rice syrup hive” as you would honey, nor see this sweetener growing off trees or encapsulated inside a plant. I’ll keep it short: It’s “man made” and goes through a PROCESS….aka: It’s processed sugar, though sadly you will see companies claim it as “unrefined sugar” if they use it in their products.
How It’s Made:
Brown rice syrup is created by breaking down the starches from cooked rice and exposing them to enzymes that are turned into smaller sugars. The result is a thick, sugary, sweet syrup of which all the nutrition from the rice is stripped away.
The sugars in brown rice syrup are: Maltotriose (52%), maltose (45%) and glucose (3%)
Maltose is also a glucose molecule as well as maltotriose. So if you’ve done the math, that’s 100% of pure glucose with a glycemic index of 98! Talk about blood sugar levels being raised to the roof! (party anyone?)
But that’s just the start!
Another study showed that rice malt sweetened baby formulas have 20 times the arsenic of the non-rice malt versions.
Just another reason to make your own nut milks, desserts, and choose your snack bars and protein powder carefully. Below are some products I recommend if you are looking for better options for your health.
Glucose vs. Fructose
Fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar levels nearly as much as glucose. As a result, it is thought to be better for people with diabetes.
Glucose can be metabolized by every cell in your body, fructose can only be metabolized in significant amounts by your liver (Source).
High fructose intake has been associated with insulin resistance, fatty liver, and increased triglyceride levels (Source). And since glucose can be metabolized by all of your body’s cells, it shouldn’t have the same negative effects on liver function.
Keep in mind that none of this applies to fruits, which are healthy foods.
They contain small amounts of fructose — but also plenty of nutrients and fiber.
So what is considered a good substitute?
I love raw honey because not only is it literally made by nature (bees) and not in a science lab, but it actually contain healing benefits and living enzymes! Read my blog post HERE for all the benefits of raw honey. It truly is an amazing sweetener with healing properties! The criticism you’ll find about it is that raw honey is high in fructose compared to other sweeteners. Sadly, these statistics and reports you’ll find fail to mention pure honey is also more concentrated so you don’t need a lot. So when compared apples to apples (i.e. Tbsp to Tbsp) to other sweeteners of course the fructose would be higher – but rarely do you see a recipe call for a cup of honey vs a cup of sugar. It’s like comparing espresso to regular brewed coffee. Of course 1 cup of espresso will have a higher caffeine content than 1 cup of coffee – and that’s why it’s consumed in small amounts. No wonder honey has a bad rap! You don’t need a lot to reap the benefits and again, the sweetness is higher so you naturally use less. Most importantly, what about the nutritional properties.
Just to brief you, raw honey contains over 200 combined vitamins, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and living enzymes. It’s also antibacterial, antimicrobial, and used to help treat digestive disorders such as colitis!
I also have personally benefited from Yacon Syrup (this is vegan, yo!), which is also a pre-biotic (great for the gut!)
But as always, it is up to you to decide on what you put in your body and what items you choose to purchase. It’s up to you to check ingredients, I can’t do that for you. So check! Read….carefully.
Ingredients are listed in order of the percentage used in the recipe. So if a food bar lists
“brown rice syrup, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, dates, coconut….”
you know the majority of the bar is made from brown rice syrup as the top, almonds as the second, and cashews as the third most ingredient used. On the contrary, If you see a list of ingredients and the last ingredient listed is “brown rice syrup” then the percentage of brown rice syrup used to create that item is lower. Still in there nonetheless, but at least it gives you an idea of what the bar is mostly composed of.
On occasion I’m fine with having something containing it – because you can’t worry about everything ALL THE TIME, right?! That too is not healthy. My point I am trying to make is, so many “health brands” and even health food bloggers and enthusiasts promote “every day” snack items with brown rice syrup. This should NOT be in your “every day” snack, or even weekly consumption. It still baffles me that it’s considered a healthy option and ok to consume regularly, daily, and even multiple times a day. Put products containing this sticky sweetener in the “once in a while” category. That’s my advice for now and I hope it cleared a few things up if you were on the fence or confused about this syrup. I’d love to hear your thoughts on THIS POST on Instagram! See you there!