Over the past few decades, more and more research has emerged to educate us on the dangers of sugar. Unfortunately, also over that time, sugar has burrowed its way into hundreds of the foods we eat every day, addicting us to its sweet taste in the process. So it’s only natural to be searching for alternatives: sweeteners that give us all of the pleasure without the risk. But sugar substitutes have another set of dangers all their own. Today, we’ll look at the most common ones and why you shouldn’t treat them as a quick fix to the sugar problem. |
The Three Main Culprits: Aspartame, Sucralose and Saccharin
These three artificial sweeteners are used in most commercially produced ‘sugar-free’ foods. You may know them as their brand-name aliases: aspartame goes by NutraSweet and Equal; sucralose’s big name is Splenda; and saccharin is Sweet and Low, Sweet Twin and Necta Sweet.
They’re all made differently, but the one thing they have in common is that they are all dangerous. Aspartame has been linked to insulin sensitivity and cancer, and all three cause metabolic problems and interfere with the body’s default rhythms. Studies show that those who use these artificial sweeteners may actually gain more weight than sugar-eaters, and they experience the same rates of diabetes, strokes, and heart disease.
Not sure exactly what sugar alcohols are or if they’re present in the food you’re eating? The key to look for on ingredients lists is the suffix -ol: some common ones are xylitol, glucitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol, and lactitol. These are often used in sugar-free gum or candy, and are virtually calorie-free. They are widely considered to be fine to consume in moderation, but overdoing them is likely to cause digestive distress. Not all sugar alcohols are equal, though; try to avoid malitol, which spikes blood sugar. Xylitol appears to be the safest out of the lot thus far.
Alternative ‘Natural’ Sweeteners
Many of us have been trained to equate the word ‘natural’ with ‘healthy’. It’s time to get that association out of your mind! After all, poisonous mushrooms/berries are 100% natural, but it doesn’t mean they won’t harm you.
Although you might psychologically feel better about using honey or agave syrup, the effects they produce in the body are virtually identical to those of high-fructose corn syrup, since both are full of fructose. In fact, agave syrup contains even more fructose than HFCS (up to a 97% content) and is best to be avoided entirely.
Honey, if used, should be consumed in moderation, and you’ll be best served to look for unrefined or “raw” versions, which preserve beneficial vitamins and nutrients. Most commercial honey is heat treated and so processed that basically none of the good stuff is left.
Most Promising Substitutes
Of course, it almost goes without saying that the best way to solve the sugar (and sugar substitute) problem is to simply avoid sweet things altogether. But after all, we’re only human, so if you’re having a craving, your best option might be stevia, an herb-derived sweetener that is not associated with any health risks. Use pure stevia like Natvia, not a derivative.
Remember, sugar causes addiction just as strong as drugs, so reducing your dependence on it won’t be easy. Just keep your end goal in mind and remember that your health is worth it.
For more natural health tips visit our blog at: http://www.alkalife.com.au/blog
Related Articles -
agave, artificial sweetener, aspartame, healthy sugar substitute, honey, natural sweeteners, saccharin, stevia, sucralose, sugar, sugar substitute, xy,