I once wrote an article on a sweet poison called “Aspartame”. It is truly toxic to our body, but aspartame is not the only sweet poison there is. There are so many sweeteners out there and some are natural, but they are not healthy after processing. We understand the ones that are created in a lab such as Aspartame, Equal, Splenda, and so forth are quite harmful to our bodies. They are clearly linked to diabetes, kidney disease, metabolic dysfunction, obesity, and many more ailments.
However, these are not our only enemies. We use these artificial sweeteners because we know that sugar is also not a good choice either. What many may not realize is that there are also corn-based sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup in almost everything we have in our pantry.
I was one of the many that never used the artificial sweeteners because I knew it was worse than regular sugar. I just didn’t know how to sweeten my food and beverages any other way than using cane sugar. However, I didn’t realize how much fructose corn syrup I was also taking in from other sources I ate also.
These corn-based sweeteners seem to be the top choice for manufacturers due to its low cost and high concentration which is about 1.5 times that of cane sugar. So, for companies that need a constant supply of sweetness high-fructose sweeteners are the way to go.
Let’s also not forget that corn crops are a principal GMO crop with at least 92% of the nation’s corn supply being genetically modified in order to withstand large doses of herbicide.
Our American diet has changed drastically over the generations. We now have more toxic ingredients going into our bodies from food than any other generation before. Is it any wonder why we have more obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver disease, and even cancer than ever before?
It is difficult these days to stay away from the high-fructose syrup if you are buying your food. You have to check the labels and learn which items are the healthier choices. Consumers are getting smarter and companies are giving you more options if you are willing to make the effort in reading the labels. It also helps to eat more whole foods than processed ones but with such busy lives that can difficult. I have even been told it’s much more expensive to buy the healthier choices. This is true even though long term you save money by not needing to go to the doctor so much. Most people are living in the now when it comes to the paycheck, so I get it.
My issue is that I have an addiction to sugar. I prefer my food to be sweet. I also grew up in Louisiana where sugarcane is one of our top products grown here. I had no idea there were other choices available out there and they aren’t always easy to find here or in other parts of the country. I purchase most of my healthier choices from online retailers. Online shopping wasn’t available when my children were growing up so I was at the mercy of local retailers most of the time.
So, I set out to find better choices for my husband and I hoping to prevent future ailments. My husband has been diagnosed with Diabetes and it runs in my family, so I really needed to find something better and fast!
First, I want to clarify that I am not opposed 100% to using sugarcane. It’s important to note that there is a difference between granulated white sugar and raw cane sugar.
Granulated white sugar which is made from sugarcane or sugar beets is the most refined and chemically processed sugar making it the least beneficial. It has been linked to gastrointestinal disorders.
Raw cane sugar is not as processed or refined as the previous sugar. It is extracted from the sugar cane plant and retains some molasses and moisture from the plant. This means that you consume less sugar as well as calories per serving. It has benefits such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, and cholesterol-lowering abilities but most of those are lost during the processing that it does go through. So, if you must use cane sugar go for the raw cane sugar instead.
Here are a few other options that you can use that won’t rot your teeth or cause weight gain or create a blood sugar imbalance. Instead, they offer great health benefits. You never realized how much mother nature has you covered when you crave a little sweetness.
Stevia is a natural substitute made from the leaves of the Stevia plant. It contains zero calories, zero sugar and is an affordable alternative. Its benefits include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antihypertensive and anticancer properties. Researchers declared the positive effects Stevia has on metabolic conditions aggravated by excessive sugar consumption such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes in various studies. It’s also 300 times sweeter than sugar so you use much less and it’s calorie-free. Imagine using a natural sweetener that reduces blood sugar and blood pressure, combats infections and lowers the risks of diabetes. You can find it in liquid or crystallized sugar form. This is the best option for diabetics.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived from xylose found in birch bark. It only has 40% of the calories found in sugar. It’s also low-carb with only one quarter compared to cane sugar. It has a glycemic rating of 13 which means xylitol is metabolized about eight times slower than cane sugar. It’s also metabolized independently of insulin in the gut. Therefore, Xylitol is also a safer choice for diabetics, hypoglycemics, and sugar-sensitive people. Its other benefits include a reduction in candida, Streptococcus mutans, ear and throat infections, reduction of cavities and plaque build-up. Researchers are also suggesting that xylitol may increase bone strength and density. However, Xylitol can have a laxative effect, so it is best to start out slowly with it. It is also toxic to dogs so if these two are a concern this may not be for you. Xylitol can be made from corn so look for non-GMO certified labels or better yet use the form derived from the birch tree.
Raw Honey has been identified as consisting of over 180 health-promoting substances including anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Pasteurized honey is heated to kill the potentially harmful bacteria, but it also kills the good bacteria. Raw honey contains helpful microorganisms that aid in digestion making it a natural prebiotic. The phenolic compounds found in raw honey play an important role in preventing cancer and reducing arterial blockages and lowering the overall risks associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s also great for soothing sore throats and coughs, relieving stress and aids in getting better sleep. It is high in carbs and calories and it is recommended that raw honey not be consumed by children under 2.
Dates were never even on my radar as a substitute. Turns out that dates can be used as a paste or bought as a syrup. They have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and gastroprotective properties. Since they contain essential nutrients such as B6, copper, iron, potassium, manganese, and magnesium they are considered a high energy food source.
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut tree and is mostly sucrose with potassium, magnesium, and prebiotic fiber. It is processed less than other sweeteners since the sap is essentially extracted and placed in the heat to dry. It is high in calories so if you are counting calories this is not for you.
In my research, these two came up often but I would use these in place of regular syrup for pancakes and waffles.
Maple syrup in pure form goes through minimal processing. The only process, once the sap is extracted from the maple tree, is that it is brought to boiling to evaporate any excess water and then filtered to take out any sediment. It contains calcium, potassium, zinc, and magnesium. Although it is a bit pricey, this is my favorite syrup.
Blackstrap molasses is the end result of boiling sugar cane during the production of granulated cane sugar. What makes this better than granulated cane sugar is that it contains more than a quarter of your daily supply of iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and B vitamins with much less sugar. It has high antioxidant content that has been recognized in cancer prevention during clinical studies. In 2011, a study showed that adding molasses to a high-fat diet had the effect of reducing body weight and body fat percentages due to decreased calorie absorption. It’s rich in copper, iron, and calcium giving molasses a vital role in maintaining healthy blood and bones. It’s a great supplement for women at risk for osteoporosis as well as a great alternative for nursing and pregnant women.
These are some great alternatives for your sweet tooth but remember that everything must be used in moderation for maintaining good health.
To learn more about these healthier choices for substituting sugar please check out the references below.