Sugar can take a devastating toll on your health. In fact, excessive sugar consumption may be the largest factor underlying obesity and chronic disease in America. One of the main sources of calories for Americans is sugar. In recent history, we’ve gone from 20 teaspoons of sugar per person per year to about 150 pounds of sugar per person per year. That’s a half pound a day for every man, woman, and child in America. The average 20-ounce soda contains 15 teaspoons of sugar.
When it comes to sweetening your foods and drinks, there are many alternatives to using sugar. With several “natural” sweeteners on the market, how do you know which one is best? We’ve put together a list that may help you when choosing the best sweetener.
Stevia Powder: A sweet powder made from a South American herb, stevia can be used by those who are sensitive even to natural sweeteners. A little stevia goes a long way. A pinch of stevia can sweeten as effectively as a spoon full of sugar. Because it is low in calories, it is great for those who want to lose weight. It also has other health benefits such as treating diabetes, hypertension, dental problems, dermatitis, acne, stomach ache, digestive problems and flu. It does not cause an increase in blood sugar levels. It is one of the best natural sweeteners.
Raw Honey: Honey that has not been heated over 117 degrees is loaded with amylases, enzymes that digest carbohydrates, as well as the nutrients found in plant pollens. Glucose tolerance tests indicate that, for most people, honey does not upset blood sugar levels as severely as does refined sugar. Buy honey labeled “raw” and use it in desserts that do not require heating.
Maple Syrup: The concentrated sap of huge deciduous trees, maple syrup is rich in trace minerals, brought up from below ground by the tree’s deep roots.
Date Sugar: Made from nutritious dehydrated dates. Date sugar is widely used as a substitute for regular sugar, because it is a healthier alternative. Its high tryptophan content makes it a good sweetener for hyperactive children, as this amino acid has a calming effect.
Xylitol: Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, a low-calorie carbohydrate made from birch bark, fibrous vegetables and fruit. Xylitol is produced naturally in our bodies.. Because it metabolizes without using insulin, there is no blood sugar spike.
The following sweeteners are used in many so-called health food products, but should be avoided:
Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup: These are highly refined products composed mostly of fructose. Excess fructose intake has been associated with adverse health effects such as metabolic syndrome, elevated triglyceride levels, hypertension, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and excess uric acid levels (associated with gout.) Increased High Fructose Corn Syrup has paralleled increasing rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and other conditions associated with poor lifestyle habits.
Concentrated Fruit Juice: Fruit juices that have been boiled down are composed largely of fructose.
“Raw,” “Natural,” Turbinado and Sucanat Sugars: These are all refined sugars from which the nutrients have been removed. Small amounts of molasses may be added back to give a light brown color.
Be sure to read about how sugar affects your children here.
What is your favorite “natural” sweetener?