The 4 Worst Sweeteners + the 4 Best from a Certified Nutritionist
I want to cut to the chase and go ahead to say state the obvious: no matter who you are, processed sugar is always going to be the worst. High-fructose corn syrup is majorly included here. Look at your labels and don’t let that sh++ into your life.
This is true if you are a regular person who leads a normal life or if you are diabetic or obese: just stay away from refined, processed sugar if you can manage it. I understand having a cookie at Christmas or some cake on your birthday. Sometimes refined sugar just happens. But don’t make a habit out of it.
I would even suggest detoxing after collision with any processed sugar.
And if you need to detox, this free email course is 5 days and has absolutely no sugar in it:
Here’s the deal: refined sugar leads to a spike in your blood sugar, which makes your liver release insulin. Insulin takes the sugar molecules into the cells for storage. But over time, with a lot of sugar intake (whether it be through actual sweets, coffee, tea, drinks or alcohol), your cells get sick of insulin’s knock on the door. They start to have insulin resistance and will not take the sugar in. So then you have sugars all over your bloodstream, causing inflammation and a whole bunch of other problems too. Like neglected kids on the streets.
This leads to metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes. All of this likely leads to being overweight in the very least, but most likely obese - all leading up to heart issues and diseases.
Processed sugar is not a good thing. I hate to say it, but stripped sugar of all of its context is not good at all.
Now that we know that we know the very worst, #1 on that list. We’ll be looking at glycemic index which is a measure of how fast a food can raise blood sugar. We’ll also be looking at the processing that goes into bringing the sweetener to the table, the effects on the brain and body, nutrient content and of course, satiation and taste.
Let’s get to the best, first.
4 Best Sweeteners:
Fruit and pure fruit juice: Of course, these need to pure and unsweetened. Using ground up fruit like dates, fruit juice concentrate, or unsweetened apple sauce to bring sweetness to smoothies, cake, yogurt, cereal, salad, water, baked goods and drinks. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber: raw and natural and uncooked.
Natural sweeteners: Let’s not be fools here. Natural sweeteners do raise the blood sugar like sugar. These all must be as raw and pure as possible.
Honey: Honey is wonderful. I realize that honey, like all the rest of these natural sweeteners, raises the amount of glucose in the bloodstream like sugar does. But not as much, and these are not empty calories. Raw honey has antioxidants, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It heals wounds and is actually good for the skin. I give it to my boys to soothe sore throats and let the antimicrobial properties do their work. It can help with digestion and has a plethora of phytonutrients. Unless you have a blood sugar condition or are obese, using honey in moderation is a good choice. It’s actually my own go-to sweetener. And darker is better.
Maple syrup: Pure maple syrup also has antioxidants. In addition to those, it has riboflavin (a good B vitamin that metabolizes carbohydrates and produces energy), calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and manganese. All these minerals plus the B vitamin make this natural sweetener perfect for coffee, tea, drizzling or marinade. Like raw honey and all the natural sweeteners, be sure your syrup is just pure maple syrup and nothing else. Check your labels.
Molasses: This is a product of sugar cane processing. But it has a way lower glycemic index because it contains all the nutrients that have been cast off to make that nasty, evil white stuff. Molasses tastes like butt to me. BUT if you can get past the taste (or maybe you like it), this natural sweetener has awesome nutrients like calcium (strong bones), vitamin B6, iron (red blood cell action in your blood), magnesium (good for a lot of action in the body), and selenium (espcially good for thyroid).
Stevia: This also should be used in moderation big time because there are still a lot of studies going on. Don’t use this every day, all day. There is still a lot to learn about Stevia. Studies have been shown that Stevia, which is a natural extraction from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which grows in Paraguay and Brazil and is a relative of the daisy and ragweed, has been shown to lower blood pressure (so don’t eat if you have low blood pressure). It has no calories and is somehow sweeter, with a little bit of a tang, I think. This is great for diabetics and pre-diabetics because it doesn’t raise blood sugar, but it should be used with caution if there are any conditions, obviously and especially if taking medications. But especially those cardiovascular issues can benefit from using stevia, like those out there with high blood pressure.
Xylitol: This one’s for your teeth because it starves bad bacteria, fungi and other microbes in your mouth. It increases absorption of calcium in the teeth. It aids in production of saliva which is great for mineral reabsorption into the teeth and reduces tooth decay. Because it can reduce gum inflammation, it can reduce inflammation for the rest of the body as well. It can reduce the likeliness of cavities so it’s great for gum, drinks and candies. For children, it can reduce the chances of ear infection through its ability to starve bacteria in the mouth, which is, of course, connected to the ears. It’s a lot less calories than sugar, and doesn’t raise blood sugar. It’s actually found in some fruits and vegetables so it’s considered natural, actually. Humans actually make a little bit in our bodies. Don’t be fooled, though. This is processed like Stevia - it’s a sugar alcohol. It’s empty of vitamins, minerals or any other benefit. But that’s why it doesn’t raise your blood sugar. Again, as with Stevia, this a good choice for diabetics or anyone with blood sugar conditions to ingest in big time moderation. Too much Xylitol has been shown to have effects on the digestive system like diarrhea. So as with all sweeteners, take it easy. Check this out, my brother started a drinks company sweetened with Xylitol - Try a Hapi Water!
Coconut sugar: This is actually coconut tree sap sugar. What happens is the leaf is cut, and the juice or sap comes out, dries out and BOOM there you have that brown, granulated sugar. Make no mistake, this is sugar. There is no doubt about it. But the thing is that it has nutrients that lower its glycemic index. Coconut sugar should be used in moderation as a substitute for table sugar. Use it to cook with instead of refined sugar, but remember that it is sugar. Diabetics or those with metabolic syndrome should stay away. But it does contain inulin, which is a fiber most likely responsible for its lower glycemic index. Along with that, it has a lot of other vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants. Again, you should not be having too much of this type of sugar - it’s just a little better. Sure, you get a tiny bit of nutrients, but you can’t eat tons of it to satisfy your needs for these nutrients.
4 Worst Sweeteners:
Refined table sugar: What’s the point? Empty calories and diabetes just so something can taste unnaturally good? I don’t think so. Table sugar is called sucrose, which is a mix of fructose and glucose, and there is absolutely no benefit to it. Nothing. It’s refined with chemicals, bleached. It will only raise your blood sugar, make you an addict for more of the bad stuff, give you a fatty liver, mess up your whole body.
High-fructose corn syrup: Dangerous fructose without the context of wonderful fruit (we shouldn’t even be having too much fruit!). This is in a lot more things than you think. Take a look at those sneaky little labels. I found some high-fructose corn syrup in some yogurt I bought for my kids. So watch out. (As a side note, anything that ends in -ose is either a sugar or a chemical replacement as in sucralose [see below]).
Artificial sweeteners: The only way I can change my mind about this is if you cannot raise your blood sugar but have a gigantic sweet tooth. The following do not raise blood sugar but have other effects, which you might be willing to deal with if you need to keep your blood sugar under control at all times.
Sucralose: Or should we call you Splenda? The problem with artificial sweeteners is that the taste buds are soothed, but the body is not. The body will not be tricked and keep searching for the calories that are supposed to come with eating something sweet. So it keeps sendiing messages to eat more. And then we eat more. So more calories in the long run. Even if we’re not going to act this way, and we have willpower of steel, studies have linked Sucralose to digestive issues by disrupting gut bacteria which leads to fogginess, bloating and can lead to other bad digestive situations. It increases the pH level of your intestines. AND disrupts glycoprotein which is important for the body.
Saccharin: Or should we call you Sweet ‘N Low or Sugar Twin? Artificial sweeteners like this one can lead to weight gain and fat storage by the body. The calories are there for a reason. Also consider the chemicals and toxins that go into making something sweet that has, unnaturally, no calories. Some symptoms include blurred vision, migraines, dizziness, allergic reactions and seizures, aside from the gut disruption. Poison for the brain and the immune systems, which will detect this foreign alcohol and rain inflammation upon it in the blood.
Aspartame: Or should we call you Equal or NutraSweet? Aspartame has been linked to problems with the brain, like fogginess, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. It’s been referred to as a neurotoxin. It’s in a lot of sugar-free gums and soda. FDA finally cracked down on Monsanto for this one, and now it’s on labels. Check your labels. Don’t let this one into your life.
Acesulfame Potassium or sometimes Ace-K: OR should we call you Sweet One or Sunett? Studies show a link between this sweetener and cancer, even more so than in others. They have all been linked to genetic mutation, though studies still evolve.
Neotame: This is one is pretty much the same as aspartame, just a little bit different, but it’s actually worse than aspartame. Little and big parts of our government have been paid well to say that it’s safe. Just saying. Only, and this is crazy, you can’t check your labels for this one. There is no law, like with aspartame, that manufacturers have to list it as an ingredient. Wow, the people we put in government really love money. So even if you eat a steak, it’s likely that the cow ate something with this toxic, cost-effective sweetener that Monsanto has invented (it had to distance itself from aspartame in its NutraSweet division). Why would you put sweetener on feed? Because animals won’t eat food that’s gone rancid. Geez. It’s also immunotoxic. It contains something formaldehyde metabolite, which is a dangerous chemical.
Agave nectar: Yikes. I’ve got some bad news. Agave nectar is completely stripped of all its good stuff, just as refined table sugar is. But it’s worse because people think it’s good for them so they consume more. It’s a highly processed system that strips agave juice from its nutrients. The by-product is what some studies have shown is worse than high fructose corn syrup with higher fructose levels and nothing to offer in terms of nutrients. Just another empty sweetener. So don’t use this stuff. It’s a highly processed sweetener, and what’s worse, it’s been marketed as good for you. (Yay! If you got to the end of this article, you now have this golden nugget of information that might have surprised you!)
Hope this helps! It’s confusing, but this is the takeaway:
If you are a diabetic or a pre-diabetic or any blood sugar-related issue, and need the taste of sweet so bad, Stevia is your best bet. It doesn’t raise your blood sugar. Everything in moderation, though.
For those of us with normal blood sugar on a regular basis, stick with natural sweeteners and Stevia. Don’t go crazy with the naturals or the Stevia. But yes, you can use the natural sweeteners, fruiteners (sweeteners like dates, fruit juice, etc.) while those with blood sugar issues shouldn’t.
Comment below if you have anything to add! Would love all healthy discussion.
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