In this day and age it seems almost impossible to determine which sugar substitute is best, there are so many to choose from and each spouts their own ‘health benefit’ claims. How do you know which one to pick and which one to discard?
Here is a guideline that you can use to make your own, informed choice:
- Any label that includes the description saccharide, means that sugar is an ingredient.
- Glucose (for example dextrose or grape sugar), galactose (milk sugar), and fructose (fruit sugar) are all “simple sugars.” The primary difference between simple and complex is the way your body metabolizes them. Simple sugar is the form of energy you were designed to run on. Every cell in your body uses glucose for energy.
- “Refined” white sugar (pure sucrose) is washed in a syrup solution, then rinsed with hot water, chemically clarified to remove impurities, decolorized (hence the white appearance), concentrated, evaporated, re-boiled until crystals form, centrifuged again to separate, then dried. By this point, any claims of “natural goodness” and “nutritional value” have completely disappeared!
- Brown sugar is basically white sugar mixed with molasses.
- Raw sugar is in fact not raw at all —it has been cooked, and most of the minerals and vitamins are gone.
- Xylitol is a sweetener known as a “sugar alcohol”. Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols – they are carbohydrates (with structures that happen to resemble sugar and alcohol). Xylitol is extracted from birch cellulose. Unlike sugar, Xylitol is slowly absorbed, does not cause a rapid blood sugar increase, and does not require an immediate insulin response from the body to be metabolized. Moreover, many studies have shown that it actually helps prevent dental cavities, ear infections and some evidence suggests that it helps prevent gum disease because Xylitol is an anti-bacterial.
- Erythritol is like sugar without the calories. It’s natural, doesn’t cause side effects and tastes almost exactly like sugar. Like Xylitol it belongs to a class of compounds called sugar alcohols. Erythritol and Xylitol are great baking substitutes, especially if you want to bake a diabetic friendly carrot cake!
- Aspartame (found in most artificial sweeteners) is a neurotoxic rat poison, read more about the effects here. It goes by many other names so it’s best to check your labels properly.
- Splenda is NOT a sugar. It’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame, though not quite as harmful.
- Honey is approximately 50% fructose, but in natural (raw and unpasteurized) form contains many health benefits. Buying honey that is local and unpasteurized is best.
- Stevia is an extremely sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe (in its natural form), 100% green stevia in its natural state is what you want. Stevia is another great baking substitute and can be used in any of our low carb, diabetic friendly desserts from our recipe book.
- Agave nectar is made from the agave plant, which is a cactus. Sounds natural, right? Agave is HIGHLY processed and approximately 80% fructose (much higher than honey and maple syrup).
- Coconut sugar is made from the sweet watery sap that drips from the cut flower buds of the coconut palm. It has a low glycemic index (GI) and is rich in amino acids. It is typically less than 10% fructose, with sucrose being the primary component.
I hope that this has answered your questions regarding sweeteners. If you are not convinced yet and believe that nothing tastes like sugar, I will leave you with this one final thought:
One gram of regular table sugar contains 4 calories, while a sweetener like erythritol contains only 0.24 calories per gram. This may seem like a small amount to sacrifice, but add up all the hidden sugar in your diet (bread, biscuits, cereal, yogurt, etc.) and all your calories suddenly amount to a lot more than you can imagine. Why not try somesugar free alternatives?
What do you think? Is it worth giving up on the sugar and all the negative effects it holds? Leave a comment and let us know, we would love to hear from you!