The market for alternative sweeteners has become quite the selection – most super markets and even corner stores are following the sweetener trend which is shifting toward using natural whole ingredients.
Decades of unhealthy habits of digesting over processed, convenience-type foods and eating at fast food establishments need to change to help reverse the ill-effects we have brought on ourselves through poor food choices.
Most of us have a natural craving for the taste of sweet foods. Although it’s okay to satisfy our sweet tooth on occasion, it’s even more important to choose wisely when choosing our sweetener of choice. There are many reasons to want an alternative sweetener, some include lifestyle choices and other are required to follow restricted diets.
Sugars are carbohydrates, which serve as the main energy source for the body. There are many types of sugars. They occur both in fresh foods and are added as ingredients to many foods. Sugar is derived from the juice of sugar cane and sugar beets. Once extracted, the sugar cane or sugar beet juice is processed extensively to produce a white, granulated substance. At each stage of the refinement process, impurities, along with nutrients, are removed. Nearly all of the nutrients are removed during the initial stages.
Many foods naturally contain sugars, such as fruit or milk. All sugars raise blood sugar levels, including sugar cane and even an apple. However, other foods, such as processed foods, have added sugars, which is not the same as naturally occurring sugar. A healthy diet can include sugar if we make a wise choice when choosing which sugars to consume.
There are many choices for alternative sweeteners. It’s important to choose one that is right for you and your lifestyle. Different ones include Stevia, which is an herb that happens to be sweet, other natural sweeteners, and some we believe are just down right horrible for our bodies. The ultimate decision as to whether or not to consume any of these sugars rests on each individuals level of understanding of these products.
Top Healthy Choice – The only “sweetener” for daily use.
Stevia is our top choice “sweetener” for regular consumption. It’s technically not a sweetener—it’s an herb that just happens to be sweet. Stevia has zero calories and zero glycemic effect, and in fact it is proven to regulate blood sugar. It is also known to help lower blood pressure as well as support the good bacteria in the stomach and aids in total cleansing and liver support.
Stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. With its extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, a little goes a long ways. Some complain of a bitter aftertaste and you have to acclimate your taste buds and find the ratio that is just right for you taste. I personally prefer to use the liquid extracts. This is my favorite brand and if I don’t use too much, it’s not bitter at all.
NOTE: Be careful of stevia derivatives called “Rebiana”, which is a manipulated stevia compound that is produced through a chemical reaction. Rebiana is not true stevia and is part of the (unhealthy) sweeteners called Purevia and Truvia. Truvia uses a very, very tiny portion of stevia-derived ingredient and the rest is all synthetic erythrotol that comes from corn (GMO) starch created in a highly chemical processing.
Truvia Sued for Deceptive Advertising: Cargill to settle deceptive marketing lawsuit alleging Truvia stevia-based sweetener is not ‘natural’
RECENT STUDY: Fruit flies that ate Truvia died sooner than those who didn’t. Read more from Natural News.
Healthy Choices – Natural Sweeteners can be used in moderation
Organic Whole Cane Sugar (Rapadura or Sucanat) is produced in the initial stages of white sugar’s manufacturing process. They are unrefined and unbleached and therefore are coarse and dark brown in color. They contain all of the nutrients present in the original sugar cane, therefore it has the ability to nourish and satiate. Due to the raw nature of this sugar, it is absorbed much more slowly into the blood stream.
Raw Honey is raw, unheated, unfiltered, and unpasteurized. Raw honey has many health benefits including aiding those with arthritis, digestive issues, insomnia and has anti-aging powers.
Most of the honey found in supermarkets is processed and not a healthy choice. When honey is heated and processed, many of its natural enzymes and nutrients, are destroyed. Processed honey is basically the refined white sugar version of honey, which makes it just as bad for us as sugar. Most contain high fructose corn syrup.
Pure Maple Syrup is a natural sweetener. Not to be confused with maple syrup (see below). Pure maple syrup contains manganese and zinc, natural antioxidants which are good for your immune system, and helps prevent damage to the heart.
Raw Organic Agave Nectar is an excellent natural sweetener. It is not processed, not heated, and do not have enzymes added to them. When the agave nectar is raw, it is truly a healthy, low glycemic food. It has a mild taste and many report that it does not cause sugar cravings. Makes sure you purchase from a trusted source and that you buy organic.
Brown Rice Syrup is a naturally fermented sweetener where the enzymes convert carbohydrates to maltose. It is made from whole grain brown rice and contains B vitamins and minerals. Brown rice syrup contains 50% soluble complex carbohydrates, which take from two to three hours to be digested, resulting in a steady supply of energy. The main component of is maltose and several complex carbohydrates – which are absorbed very slowly by our bodies, making it a good low glycemic choice.It’s consistency is similar to honey, but it has a more subtle sweet flavor. It comes in different grades and gluten-free versions.
Date Sugar is made from dehydrated and ground dates and therefore has a lot of vitamins, minerals as well as fiber. It works well in cooking and baking.
Molasses is a by-product of the sugarcane refining process. Blackstrap molasses has a strong and bittersweet taste. Blackstrap molasses is the final excretion of sugarcane and contains calcium, iron and minerals.
Fructose – it is absorbed more slowly in the gastro-intestinal tract than glucose, producing only a slight insulin response, resulting in smaller fluctuations in blood-sugar levels. Fructose that is part of a food already, like fruits, exist within the framework of that food, with a host of fibers, enzymes, and phytonutrients that work in harmony with each other to help nourish the body and digest the carbohydrates.
Just Like Sugar looks and tastes a lot like sugar and has a very low glycemic index. It contains chicory root which has a lot of benefits. It is composed of prebiotic fibers that have been shown to help with candida-cleansing and weight loss. Use it cup for cup in replacement of sugar in any recipe, even ice cream. It also helps increases feeling of fullness since the carbohydrates in the product are all a fiber!
Luo han guo, or “Monk Fruit” (named because it was often eaten by the luohan monks in China) has almost no effect on blood sugar levels. It’s much sweeter than sugar, and like stevia, it has nutritional benefits. It can be purchased in powdered form or as a liquid extract.
Sugar Alcohols – proceed use with caution!
Despite the name, sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol. Sugar alcohols are sugar substitutes that are either extracted from plants or manufactured from starches. Common ones: maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol. Sugar alcohols do not provide as many calories as sugar, because they are not completely absorbed into your body. Sugar alcohols are knows to ferment in the digestive tract which can cause boating, abdominal gas, cramping and even diarrhea as well as anxiety attacks, problems falling asleep and restless sleep.
Sugar alcohols are found in very low levels in some raw fruits and vegetables, and do not cause problems in this natural state. However, most commercial products manufacturing or using these sugar alcohols are produced through a chemical process, making them very different from the ones found in nature.
If you choose to use xylitol I recommend Smart Sweet which is made from US grown birch trees.
Although Erythritol is found naturally in grapes, melons, mushrooms, it is manufactured on a commercial scale processed from corn syrup. (most likely GMO corn). Wholesome Sweeteners make a product called Zero which does not use corn or chemicals. Now Foods also makes a non-GMO product.
Unhealthy Choices – Artificial, refined and processed (not recommended)
White Sugar – this common sugar is highly refined and goes into the bloodstream and upsets the body’s blood-sugar balance, triggering the release of insulin. The body uses Insulin to keep blood-sugar at a constant and safe level. Insulin also promotes the storage of fat, so that when you eat sweets high in sugar, you’re making way for rapid weight gain.
White sugar goes through a process which includes a series of washing, filtering, bleaching where all the nutrients are stripped away. The molasses is removed by a filtering agent to create white sugar. This sweetener has virtually no nutritional value and is known to cause cavities and a ling list of other health issues.
Brown sugar is basically white sugar flavored with molasses The brown color is produced when it goes through a charcoal treatment which contains impurities and makes it very refined and is most likely more harmful that white sugar.
Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are refined sweeteners made from corn. Corn syrup is composed of dextrose and is considerably cheaper than sugar which accounts for the wide-spread use in processed foods.
Dextrose is a powdered from of corn sweetener that is used a lot in processed foods. It’s very similar to glucose.
Pancake Syrup – also known as maple syrup but it’s not pure maple syrup (see above). They have harmful additives, chemical preservatives, fats and oils. This type of sweetener, sugar-free or regular should be avoided at all costs.
Many of us has seen “no added sugar” on food packages? This is nothing more than a creative marketing ploy. It means that they didn’t add sugar, but it does not mean that they did not add artificial / chemical sugars. Become familiar with the list of sugars below so you can determine if a product is safe to consume.
Artificial sweeteners may be the most well known for their low-glycemic properties and are largely used in commercialized products.There is a lot of controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners and the safety of long-term ingesting. Artificial sweeteners tend to have an unwanted aftertaste after ingested, and like Sugar Alcohol based sweeteners , they too have a laxative effect if eaten in large quantities.
The following is a list of artificial / chemical sweeteners. Besides the fact that they are very harmful to our bodies, studies have shown that they do not help with weight loss. Our bodies do not know what to do with these artificial ingredients and so the brain sends a signal to send the components to the liver. And there it sits. And sits. Our liver is our main fat-burning organ so it’s really important to keep it clean.
Aspartame – Also known as Equal or NutraSweet, has been linked to numerous health issues including, but not limited to, headaches, mood swings, neurological disorders, seizures and even brain tumors. This harmful ingredient breaks down into phenylalanine when it is ingested and metabolized. Phenylalanine causes excessive action of neurons in the brain and it kills cells. Aspertame turns to formaldehyde at 80 degrees, which obviously is a lower temperature than our bodies. Research has shown that too much phenylalanine can trigger Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactive Disorder, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders.
Splenda / Sucralose is made with chlorine components. The presence of chlorine is thought to be the most dangerous component of sucralose. Chlorine is considered a carcinogen and has been used in poisonous gas, disinfectants, pesticides, and plastics.
Short-term studies done by Splenda’s manufacturers, McNeil Nutritionals, revealed that test rodents suffered from dangerous side effects such as shrunken thymus glands, and enlarged livers and kidneys. No long-term studies were done before Splenda was approved by the FDA. Read more on Splenda here.
Saccharin – Also known as Sweet ‘n Low. Although not solidly proven, this sweetener has been thought to cause cancer. It has been found to cause bladder cancer in lab animals. It now comes with a cancer-warning label. Reported reactions include wheezing, nausea, diarrhea, tongue blisters, tachycardia, fixed eruptions, headache, diuresis, and sensory neuropathy.
Maltodextrin – It is produced from rice, potato or corn starch. It is known to contain MSG and it doesn’t need to state that on the ingredient label. It is also known to affect blood sugar levels and cause tooth decay. You will find this additive in sugar packets as well as in sugar free jello, crystal light …
Dextrose – A GMO (Gentically Modified Organism) ingredient made from plant starch (Usually corn starch).
Fructose listed on packages usually refers to the chemical name fructose, a well known kind of sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Naturally produced fructose and (chemical) fructose are not the same thing. The fructose you see listed on most ingredient labels of processed foods is not derived naturally from fruit or honey. This fructose is often extracted corn syrup. In the processing stage the sucrose molecule breaks down into two simple sugars- fructose and glucose. This makes this type of fructose more processed than white sugar and a very unhealthy choice. Fructose on ‘all natural’ products are healthy to consume as this type of fructose is derived naturally from fruit.
Sweet One – the latest and not greatest artificial sweetener, is made from vinegar and is very similar to saccharin. No studies have been done and reported at the time of this post. Please don’t join in on the artificial bandwagon and become a horrible statistic.