Jun 21 2015

What do you know about your Favorite Sweetener

Published by at 12:33 pm under Organic,Personal Care

Is your favorite sweetener bad for you?
Look at pros and cons of various sweeteners to help you choose wisely. 

Most everyone likes sweets. But we know that too much sugar is just not good for us.  In fact, Americans are consuming about 7 times more sugar than we did 30 years ago, in part because it is added to so many products, from bread to ketchup.  It wreaks havoc on our blood sugar levels and can lead to type 2 diabetes. Additionally it feeds the unfriendly bacteria in our gut, leading to such bacterial overgrowth as Candida.1*

As the negative impact of white processed sugar has been realized, many alternatives have been created. There are so many choices, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. We often think we are picking the healthier choice to find out that it is the worst choice of all! Artificial sweeteners have been marketed to the public as a healthier option because they contain zero to few calories. But research has shown that to be untrue (see last week’s blog on the Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners).*

So which ones are better than others? Let’s start out with the sweeteners you don’t want to use. And these include any artificial sweeteners.*

 

Aspartame

As we discussed last week, Aspartame is a no-no. This chemical is found in NutraSweet as well as Equal, Spoonful, Equal Measure, AminoSweet, Benevia, NutraTaste, Canderel, and other “diet foods.” In addition to being associated with respiratory difficulties, migraines, headaches, seizures, gastrointestinal problems, heart palpitations and weight gain, researchers are finding that drinking two diet sodas a day can lead to a 500 percent greater increase in waist size. Furthermore, animal studies suggest that aspartame actually increases blood glucose levels similarly to sugar, which could explain the association between diet soda and diabetes.(1, 5)*

 

White processed sugar

Comprised of 50% glucose, the compound that spikes blood sugar, and 50% fructose, which goes straight to the liver, it should be used in minimal quantities. Read food labels, as it sneaks into many processed foods.  If you use sugar, choose organic to avoid pesticides and GMO crops. Less processed sugars like rapadura or turbinado, though not healthy, are richer in minerals.*

 

Sucralose

Also known as splenda, this chemical is processed with chlorine. Researchers are finding it is “…passing through our bodies and ending up in wastewater treatment plants, where it can not be broken down…”1 The concern of scientists is that “…it could change organisms feeding habits and interfere with photosynthesis putting the entire food chain at risk…”1 Pass on the sucralose!*

 

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Today, Americans ingest approximately 200 calories a day from HFCS. It is added to a wide variety of foods and since it was introduced into our food supply 30 years ago, people have gotten heavier. According to a 2009 study published in the journal of Environmental health, HFCS contains mercury due to the way it is processed. Additionally, the glucose and fructose — which are naturally bound together — become separated during the chemical process. This allows the fructose to go directly to your liver, which leads to fatty liver. Most likely, if a product contains HFCS, it is a processed food that is just not healthy for you. You are better off just skipping it all together.5*

 

Agave nectar

These sweeteners are found in health food stores, but they consist of 70-90% fructose which is more than what’s found in high fructose corn syrup. Though it doesn’t’ cause the high spikes in blood sugar like regular white sugar, “…agave’s high fructose levels go directly to the liver where the organ repackages it as blood fats called triglycerides, increasing heart disease risk….”2 High fructose levels can also contribute to insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes as well as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the most common disease in America today.1*

Keep in mind that you want to keep all sweeteners to a minimum. But if you need to reach for something to sweeten your tea or oatmeal, you would be better off choosing from the following:

 

Stevia

Stevia is thought to be the safest alternative to sugar. It is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia plant, which is categorized as an herb. Some forms of Stevia plants taste better than others, and you can actually grow your own Stevia plant. It comes in both liquid and powder forms and about 1 ¼ tsp of stevia is equivalent to the sweetness of 1 tablespoon of sugar.1,2*

 

Raw local honey

Raw honey does have high fructose levels, but it has some good benefits. It contains cancer defending antioxidants, and when you buy local honey, it can help with allergy symptoms. Additionally, it has a low glycemic index, and won’t cause your blood sugar to drop later in the day, resulting in low energy “crash”. 1*

 

Blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses is the byproduct of the process that turns sugar cane into refined sugar. It is rich in iron, potassium and calcium. One tablespoon has more iron then 3 oz of red meat. But don’t overdo because it is still sugar. Buy organic to avoid GMOs.1*

 

Real maple syrup

Maple syrup, the one that states 100 percent maple syrup on the label, as opposed to maple flavored (which would most likely contain high fructose corn syrup, is lower in calories and has more minerals than honey and may have heart benefits and ward off cancer. “…In 2011, a pharmacist from the University of Rhode Island discovered 54 previously unknown compounds in maple syrup from Canada, many of which were anti-inflammatory (which protects your heart) and exhibited cancer-fighting antioxidant properties. Ironically, two of the antioxidants they found were later discovered to fight enzymes that lead to type 2 diabetes…”1*

 

Sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols, including xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol, are all natural sweeteners, “…made through the fermentation process of corn or sugar cane…”1 Their “cooling” sensation in the mouth and the fact that they have been found to prevent cavities, make these a popular sweeteners in chewing gum. Make sure to choose organic or non GMO and don’t overdo as they can cause gastrointestinal distress when used in large amounts. Sugar alcohols have a low glycemic index and do not spike blood sugar or Insulin. Additionally, sugar alcohols may feed the friendly bacteria in the gut, having a prebiotic effect. Please note that xylitol is toxic to dogs as it can cause life threatening changes in their blood sugar. (1,3,4)*

Consuming too much sugar is one of the worst things you can do for your gut bacteria. The unfriendly bacteria thrive on it. Disease loves it. Artificial sweeteners are not recognized by the body and it doesn’t know how to process it, so reacts in an opposite manner of what you are intending. Remember when you eat, you are feeding your body as well as your gut bacteria. We continue to emphasize the importance of eating organic whole foods, fresh vegetables and fruits. This keeps your gut bacteria healthy.  Supplementing with a quality probiotic such as Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™ will ensure you are supplying your gut with the friendly bacteria it needs to keep your digestion and your immune system healthy.

Healthiest wishes,

Kelli

 

 

Resources:

  1. http://www.rodalenews.com/best-sweeteners?page=0
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/stevia-what-is-it_n_5983772.html
  3. http://authoritynutrition.com/sugar-alcohols-good-or-bad/
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24915309
  5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/high-fructose-corn-syrup_b_4256220.html


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