There are 4 classifications of sweeteners:
CALORIE sweeteners these sweeteners have calories and increase blood sugar
ARTIFICIAL sweeteners which are not found in nature and chemically made
SUGAR ALCOHOLS are sweeteners that come from plant products such as fruits and berries. The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process
OTHER NON-CALORIC SWEETENERS are sweeteners that do not increase blood sugar but are found in nature. These include monk fruit and stevia.
Caloric sweeteners include sugar, dextrose, glucose syrup, crystalline fructose, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, fruit juice concentrations, malodextrin, trehalose, honey, and more.
SUGAR is a carbohydrate which means it contains carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. It has calories and will raise your blood sugar level.
There are over 56 names for the sweet stuff. Everything from sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s fructose, honey, molasses, coconut sugar, date sugar, and more.
Honey is the most natural form of sugar. Blackstrap molasses is a less processed form of sugar.
As stated above honey is a form of sugar and it will raise your blood sugar.
The best form of honey is RAW HONEY. Raw honey contains pollen, enzymes, and other micronutrients. These compounds are filtered or destroyed by heat when regular honey is processed.
If you want to consume honey you should get a local raw variety to get more nutrients. One thing to note is that raw honey crystalizes due to it being unfiltered. These honey products should be heated under 115 degrees.
Some research says that raw honey has antibacterial properties.
While honey is less processed it is made of the same elements as sugar. While there are actually more calories in honey (22 calories in honey verse 16 calories in 1 teaspoon) but since honey is sweeter and more dense than sugar. This may lead to eating less sugar and thus getting the same amount of calories as in sugar.
Honey can last for a long time as long as it is in a tightly sealed container to prevent spoilage.
When table sugar is made molasses are what is leftover from the sugar cane and sugar beet processing.
There many different varieties of molasses but the best version to have is Blackstrap Molasses.
Blackstrap molasses is the dark, viscous substance that remains after maximum extraction of sugar from raw sugar cane. It has the consistency of a thick syrup and is a concentrated byproduct left over after the sugar’s sucrose has been crystallized. Unlike refined sugar, blackstrap molasses contains essential vitamins and minerals boasting a number of powerful health benefits.
Molasses contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganeses, selenium, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorous, chromium, cobalt and sodium. It also has various vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamine and riboflavin. It is very low in both fat content and fiber.
One thing to note about molasses is that the nutritional quality depends on how refined it is, the quality of the plant, and how much sugar is removed during the processing.
It contains the most vitamins with a glycemic load of 55 which is lower than regular sugar so it is a good sweetener for those with diabetes depending on how it was made.
Artificial sweeteners are not found in nature and are made in a lab. They have no calories, and do not raise blood sugar levels. They consist of the following:
- Aspartame known as Equal and NutraSweet is 180 times sweeter than sugar
- Acesulfame-K known as Sunett or Sweet Ones is 200 times sweeter than sugar
- Saccharin known as Sweet’N Low or Necta Sweet is 300 times sweeter than sugar
- Sucralose known as Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar
- Neotame is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar
- Advantage is 20,000 times sweeter than sugar
There are mixed results on research of these types of sweeteners. For example long-term studies show that regular consumption of artificially sweetened beverages reduces the intake of calories and promotes weight loss or maintenance, but other research shows no effect, and some studies even show weight gain.
Artificial sweeteners may prohibit the body from knowing how many calories are being consumed. Studies show that sugar and artificial sweeteners affect the brain in different ways. This can result in eating more and craving sweet foods and drinks when consuming these artificial sweeteners.
These sweeteners are made from synthetic chemicals. Since they are not actually food I always wonder if your body knows what to do with these compounds and if they may be more trouble than they are worth.
NON-CALORIE SWEETENERS FOUND IN NATURE
Stevia is a low-calorie sweetener not evaluated by the FDA. It is made from the leaves of a shrub that grows in South and Central America. It is about 300 times sweeter than sugar.
There are 3 types of stevia: Stevia Leaf, Stevia Extracts, and processed refined stevia (like Truvia).
- Green Leaf is the least processed with the leaves dried and ground into a powder it is 30 – 40 times sweeter than sugar
- Stevia Extracts are those that extract the sweeter and less bitter parts of the leaf (rebaudioside), which doesn’t have the health benefits found in stevioside. Some feel that this may be a better form of stevia but there are no studies to back this up
- Processed stevia is the most refined form of stevia and the least resembles the leaf. One product is Truvia which is made of rebiana, erythritol, and natural flavors. The stevia leaf goes through a 42-step process. This form is 200 – 400 times sweeter than sugar.
The thing to note is that there are several highly refined brands of Stevia that should not be used as a sugar substitute.
This makes you realize that all stevia products are not the same. Those that are whole-leaf and crude extracts are better sources to use as sweeteners.
A sweetener that is getting popular. Monk fruit extract does not affect blood sugar the way natural sugars do, however it depends on the type. The best source is to eat it off the vine or get a brand that is monk fruit extract or monk fruit sweetener. This sweetener also has antioxidants. It is 100-250 times sweeter than regular sugar.
One thing to note about this sweetener is that there is limited research on the effects. Mogroside extracts from monk fruit may have health benefits, but more research is needed to show the long term effects. To date, studies have used high doses of monk fruit extract that is much more concentrated than what you are likely to consume when taking it as a sweetener. It’s not clear what dosage people would need to consume in order to experience any of these health benefits.
Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits and berries. The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process. The following are sugar alcohols:
- Isomalt (Palatinat)
- Hydrogenated Starch Hydroslsates (HSH)
Sugar alcohols have been used for decades to sweeten chewing gum, candy, fruit spreads, toothpaste, cough syrup, and other products. Newer, cheaper ways to make sugar alcohols from corn, wood, and other plant materials, along with their sugar-like taste, are starting to be used more and more in food products.
These sweeteners are not properly digested by the body. Parts that are not metabolized can ferment in the intestine leading to harmful bacteria to grow there. This can also lead to constipation, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Sugar alcohols also can raise blood sugar levels which means they are bad for those with inflammation, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or other health conditions.
So what is the best sweetener?
High intakes of sugar and other man-made sweeteners are not good for health.
Research on artificial sweeteners has shown to cause more problems than they solve. Even those they may not increase blood sugar levels. They have been found to trick the body into craving more sweet foods. Sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues. Worse yet they can lead to inflammation causing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health conditions.
You should be aware of all types of sugars in your food. You should check the nutrition facts label. You can see how many carbohydrates and grams of sugar in the food. This also goes for products that have artificial sweeteners. They will not have any sugar, but they still have carbohydrates which can turn to sugar and raise your blood sugar levels.
One way to avoid high blood sugar is to buy food products with no artificial sweeteners or added sugar. This way you can control the amount of sweetener you consume.
If do have added sugar in the diet you should aim for the following:
Eat only 24 grams of ADDED SUGAR per DAY
This is equal to 6 teaspoons of ADDED SUGAR for 1 DAY
REMEMBER: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar
If you have a food item with 10 grams of sugar, that is about 3 teaspoons of sugar.
When you think it in terms of teaspoons, that is a lot of sugar added to your food, right?
If you have 2 food items with 10 grams of sugar you are almost at your limit of 24 grams a day.
Ultimately, you should try to avoid any sugar in your food. This goes for food that has sugar added or foods that have high levels of natural sugar and less than 3 grams of fiber.
Sugar is also found artificial and natural fruit juices. So whether you are drinking juice from a bottle or making your own juices and smoothies you want to be careful how much fruit you add.
Too much fruit juice can increase your sugar consumption and cause blood sugar to rise. I usually advise clients to abstain from juice since it is all sugar and no fiber.
If you make a juice or smoothie a good tip is to add only one type of fruit to keep the sugar content low.
PLEASE NOTE: If you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or another health condition you should evaluate the amount of sugar in your diet and strive for NO added sugar in your diet to achieve optimal health. I would you to recommend to limit the amount of sugar in your diet. You want to concentrate on consuming more vegetables and fruits.
High fiber fruit includes green apples, pears, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, passion fruit, fresh figs, kiwi fruit, mangos, pink grapefruit, and nectarines. These fruits should be eaten to meet your sugar cravings.
Personally I try to avoid added sugar and sweeteners as much as possible. I am not a fan of artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. I think the best way to sweeten food is with naturally with fruit.
If you cannot do that I would suggest raw organic honey unless you have a health condition then you should use those in moderation. If you prefer a sweetener that will not increase your blood sugar you can use stevia extract or monk fruit extract in small quantities. As always make sure it is pure and a good quality. Some brands will have additives like dextrose or xylitol.
That being said, research of long term effects of stevia and monk fruit extract as safe sweeteners is limited so be careful with those.
Overall, you want to be aware of your whole diet consumption. Are you getting the right amount of carbohydrates, healthy fat, fiber, and protein along with ample amounts of vegetables?
Have questions about sweeteners you are using? Contact me