The Pros and Cons of Seven Sugar Substitutes

Ross Quade | Health | 30 Sep, 2014 | No Comments

sugar substitutes

We all know that white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are bad for us, which is why we turn to alternative sweeteners to do the job. Unfortunately, there are some sugar substitutes out there now that can be just as bad. Understanding the foods you eat is the key to managing your health. If you use one or more of the following sugar alternatives, then you may want to read on to find out the pros and cons of the leading sugar substitutes.

Stevia

This plant-based sugar has made it into the kitchens of health-conscious consumers all over the nation. What makes stevia attractive is that it doesn’t have any calories and is 30 times sweeter than white sugar. Because it’s been used for many years in South America, physicians believe that if health problems were associated with it, then it should be prevalent in these areas due to stevia consumption (but this isn’t so). The cons of stevia is that the leaf and crude extracts of the stevia plant are approved by the FDA only for herbal supplemental use, rather than food use, due to potential side effects related to the nervous system. You may also be surprised to learn that stevia isn’t all that natural; especially since it is highly processed by the time it reaches store shelves.

Truvia

This is another natural sweetener that health nuts like to use as an alternative to white sugar. It is a “natural sweetener” that was created by Coca Cola and Cargill. This sweetener comes from rebiana, which is a compound that’s found within the leaves of the stevia plant. This too has zero calories and is ideal for people who like Sprite Green and Vitamin Water Zero. The downside of this sugar is that it doesn’t taste like stevia, so those who fell in love with stevia may not like this alternative. Its main source of sweetness comes from erythritol, which is hard for intestinal bacteria to digest.

Agave Syrup

The agave plant can be found growing in the deserts of Mexico. Today, they are cultivated for the purpose of supplying people with a sugary alternative, known as agave nectar. The good thing about agave is that it’s very tasty, sometimes being three times sweeter than white sugar, which means you don’t have to use as much. It blends well in drinks and can be a great addition to raw diets, if the agave was processed using enzymes rather than heat. The downside is that it can be just as bad as white sugar. Due to the fact it requires enzymes or heat to break down the polymer of fructose to make it sweet, it is considered a processed sweetener. It also has just about as much calories as table sugar (16 calories per tsp).

Splenda

This is another no-calorie sweetener that is advertised as being a healthier alternative. However, it is created by chemically combining chlorine with table sugar, forming sucralose, which is a molecule that happens to be 600 times sweeter than white sugar. The up side of Splenda is that it can withstand temperatures up to 450 degrees, making it a great option for baking (without the browning and texture effects that table sugar offer). The down side is that it has fillers like maltrodextrin, which can hike up the calories a bit (just by a few). Although Splenda has injected vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, there is a lawsuit pending against Splenda stating that it has no nutritional benefits and is short-changing consumers.

Luo Han Guo

This may not be as popular as the other forms of alternative sweeteners. It is a Chinese remedy that is extracted from a native fruit in China called the Momordica grosvenori. This plant comes from the cucumber squash family. It is a natural sugar that has 250 percent of the sweetness found in sucrose and can be used for cooking and baking. Diabetics frequently use it because it doesn’t make insulin levels spike and has little effect on your weight. It is also being studied to determine if it can really stop skin tumor growth. The con for this sugar is that it has two percent of the calories found in white sugar, which can be a deal breaker for those looking for a no-calorie sweetener.

Xylitol

This is a substance that is found in some fruits and veggies, such as corn on the cob. It has shown to help your immune system and reduce the signs of aging. It’s been approved by the FDA and can be used for cooking and baking. In some cases, it has been used to sweeten gum, since it doesn’t cause cavities. The only con about this sugar is that if consume frequently, it could possibly cause diarrhea or stomach discomfort.

Maple Syrup

You can purchase maple sweetener in the form of syrup or sugar granules. It can be used in liquids and baked goods. It is high in sucrose, but has proven to be safe for people with type 2 diabetes to consume (and could even be beneficial). It is very sweet and is all-natural. It has trace minerals like zinc and manganese, which can help your immune system fight free radicals and help produce white blood cells. Although delicious, when you consume too much maple syrup, the sucrose that is in the maple can potentially cause a spike in blood sugar. So moderation is key.

If you’ve been looking for alternative sweeteners for your teas, coffee and food, then you should use this list to help you decide which of them would be best for you.




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