Thursday, April 21, 2011

The sweet stuff line up..Natural sweeteners and chemical ones to avoid and why

Organic powdered sugar (AKA evaporated cane juice) Agave Nectar, Xylitol, Truvia (a form of Stevia) and raw sugar

We all know sugar is bad for us, so I wanted to go over some other options out there and point out briefly how dangerous some of the common artificial sweeteners out there can be.  As far as healthy options go I just pulled things out of my cupboards and here is what I came up with.

Organic powdered sugar is actually  evaporated cane juice which is one of the least processed forms of sugar.  The reason that is important is that sugar in the whole plant form is sugar cane.  When a food is still in its whole food form it contains all the nutrients and enzymes needed to digest it.  In essence, a sugar closer to its original form will not cause all the destruction and weight gain that processed sugars do.  So this makes this sugar a better choice as it has more of the original nutritive value and is digested more efficiently. As with all forms of sugar less is always best.  You can find it at Trader Joe's, Safeway and other main stream grocers as well as heath food stores.

Agave Nectar is extracted from a plant called blue agave which is best known as the plant that tequila is made from. The health benefit of using agave nectar aside from it having its nutritive component still intact is that it does NOT cause the spike in blood sugar that common white sugar does.  It has roughly the same calories as sugar but is processed differently because of the low glycemic index.  The spike in your blood sugar is what contributes to diabetes, mood swings, the sugar rush and crash.  It is similar in taste and consistency to honey and makes a great substitute for corn syrup in recipes like home made granola bars etc... It is also great as a sweetener for hot drinks, plain yogurt, on pancakes, and anywhere else you might use syrup or honey.  It has become mainstream and now aside from health food stores can be found in many common grocery stores, even Wal-mart.

Xylitol was really exciting to find because not only is it not detrimental to the teeth it actually helps PREVENT tooth decay.  It is a natural sweetener in a crystallized form much like raw sugar in texture that is made in the body and found in certain plants and fruits like raspberries.  The cool thing about xylitol is that it's molecules have 5 carbon atoms as opposed to the regular 6 that other sweeteners such as sorbitol, fructose and glucose have.  What this means is that most bacteria and yeast in the mouth are unable to use it.  So decay, thrush, and other related maladies are kept at bay.  It is just as sweet as white sugar but has 40% less calories!!

Stevia or other brands of stevia like Truvia are excellent choices for those wanting to lose weight as it is completely calorie free and unlike splenda or other chemically altered sweeteners it is  ALL NATURAL.  Stevia is a plant and it comes in the powder form or liquid, but be careful as it can easily been overdone as it is 30 times sweeter than sugar. If you use too much it can have a slightly bitter aftertase.  It is not a great option for baking because of the lack of bulk compared to traditional sugar.  If used for cooking or baking using recipes specific to stevia is a good idea.  Stevia is highly recommended for diabetics as no insulin is needed to break it down and so the blood sugar is not affected.  It is best used in hot and cold drinks, to sweeten oatmeal, yogurt, or fruit.  Try it in all kinds of foods.  There are no side effects.

Honey is another all natural sweetener that is a better choice than traditional sugar.  It has amazing healing qualities fighting infection and inflammation, aids with tissue regrowth and avoiding scarring as well as being good for diarrhea,  indigestion, stomach ulcers and gastroenteritis. Granted some of those are topical treatments but all in all honey is a wonderful alternative to white processed sugar.  Again processed sugars are handled in the body different from unprocessed or minimally processed sugars as the enzymes and nutrients needed to digest it are already present as opposed to being stripped.  This allows the body to process them more efficiently leaving less to be processed as fat.

Raw sugar is only marginally better than white sugar and as such should be used sparingly.  It has the same calorie content and is just a slightly less processed form of sugar.  It is what white sugar is made from before the molasses has been stripped from it.  It is only on here because even sugar (as bad as it really is for your whole system) is still light years ahead of the chemical sweeteners so many people mistakenly use to improve their health.  

BEWARE of reduced sugar and sugar free processed foods.  MANY new foods are making it to the supermarket shelf filled with SPLENDA the name brand for sucralose a dangerous non food that has been chemically altered to look closer to a pesticide than a food.  In fact that is how it was discovered in 1976 by British scientists who were trying to develop a new pesticide and came up with this.  Unfortunately it has now become the latest craze.  Many of you have heard that  the Splenda molecule is comprised of sucrose (sugar) and while that is true they fail to mention that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule have been replaced by three chlorine atoms which makes this compound much more like a pesticide with all its deleterious effects than a sugar.

 Another chemical sweetener that has been making it back onto shelves in a big way is aspartame a known toxin and carcinogen.  I was shocked by this as most people are now aware of how dangerous this is.  However you will find aspartame in lots of sweetened reduced sugar or sugar free yogurts like YOPLAIT, sugar free or reduced calorie drinks like crystal light, and other sugar free drinks and other common, name brand sugar free products.  READ labels and try to buy organic products or those that you have thoroughly checked out first.  

If you are addicted to your artificially sweetened drinks and foods and can't be bothered to give it up thinking you are at least losing weight think about this...from ABC good morning America

"Calorie-conscious consumers who opt for diet sodas may gain more weight than if they drank sugary drinks because of artificial sweeteners contained in the diet sodas, according to a new study.A Purdue University study released Sunday in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience reported that rats on diets containing the artificial sweetener saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food, casting doubt on the benefits of low-calorie sweeteners."There's something about diet foods that changes your metabolic limit, your brain chemistry," said ABC News' medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard.Though Savard said more research needs to be done to uncover more information, the study does hint at the idea that the sweeteners alter a person's metabolism. Savard said another recent study, which included more than 18,000 people, found healthy adults who consumed at least one diet drink a day could increase their chance for weight gain."


April said...

Love me some agave nectar! I tried stevia, but it comes across bitter to me instead of sweet. I'm hypoglycemic...very mild case but try to stay on top of it so that it doesn't get worse! Anyway, I was going to try the Splenda for baking once and when I picked up this huge box, it felt empty! I thought okay this can't possibly be good! And put it back! Any favorites for baking? I still haven't been able to find a good replacement for regular sugar... said...

I am still looking into good alternatives for baking. I will do some research and post some recipes soon. In the meantime I cut the sugar up to half. I don't replace it I just use less. But I want to find a better alternative as well. The tricky part is the bulk that sugar provides when baking. In fruit desserts I just sweeten the fruit with xyilitol or truvia. But it is true that stevia when overdone or a bad brand can be very bitter! I like it in small doses especially the vanilla liquid in my tea but only about 2 drops. I will keep doing some research though since I like to bake too!

Anonymous said...

Stevia in the Raw. What about black strap molasses/