The recent focus on the amount of sugar in my diet has got me thinking.
What about the sugar substitutes being used to make the foods we are eating sweet?
Is it any better for you than sugar?
Or are they worse for your health in some way?
We want to look at any possible side effects, that may come from consuming these types of products.
There is so much research on this subject and many views about what is right and what is wrong.
Let us start with the top five sugar substitutes in the US to see what they have in common.
Top Five Sugar Substitutes
There are two categories of the top five; first category, is for those of us who want to stay with the natural ingredients:
1) Honey – contains some good vitamins and minerals to help promote good health.
2) Stevia – native to South America and is much sweeter than sugar but may leave a metallic aftertaste for some people.
3) Dates – have the right amount of minerals and are a fruit from the date palm tree which is easy to digest for most people.
4) Coconut Sugar – extracted from the sap of the coconut blooms, famous because it has a lower glycemic value than sugar.
5) Maple Syrup – rich in antioxidants and a great source of minerals; the darker the grade, the more good ingredients.
The second category is the Artificial Sweeteners:
1) Sucralose – comes from sugar through chemical processing; Splenda is the most common product made with this ingredient.
2) Aspartame – formed by various types of chemical reactions. NutraSweet and Equal contain this ingredient.
3) Saccharin – made by the oxidation of two chemicals and has no calories or carbs. Sweet ‘N Low is a popular brand.
4) Sorbitol – made from corn syrup in a process changing the characteristics from glucose to its sugar alcohol form.
5) Xylitol – made primarily from corn cobs but can be made from birch trees.
The first three are made strictly from chemical reactions, while sucralose is from sugar it is the result of chemical reactions.
Something that all these sweeteners have in common.
Benefits of going sugar-free
Cutting back the sugar in your diet is not an easy thing to do; symptoms vary from person to person, but many people have a similar effect as quitting an addictive substance.
The effects may seem very real to many people, I struggle with this myself; but it is not an addiction, just a weakness!
There are too many scientific studies that tell us that it is not the same at all.
Not something that we want to hear! It would be better to feel like we can push the blame on to something else, that is out of our control.
The truth is much more straightforward, cutting back on sugar has many benefits to our bodies.
Studies show that reducing sugar can lead to better-looking skin.
Diets low in sugar promote good regeneration of the collagen which keeps the skin plump and prevents premature wrinkles.
Balanced energy levels because your blood sugar will not be spiking and falling off so much.
Helps to reduce the belly fat by not flooding your body with an excessive amount of insulin.
Helps to prevent heart disease and some cancer.
Reduces the risk of diabetes and all the complications that can arise from high levels of glucose in the blood.
Refined Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
For people who consume a lot of sugar in their diets, the withdrawal symptoms can be more extreme than someone who eats smaller amounts of sugar.
The list of symptoms can vary but include:
Headaches are common, general fatigue, irritable, and cranky.
All of this is made worse; by not eating what you think is enjoyable and replacing it with something less tasty, just because it is right for you!
I have met a few people who can deal with this better than most, don’t know what it is but they can eat what is right for them, regardless of what the tastes.
That is not the norm for most of the people I know, if the food is terrible tasting, they may eat it for a while, but in the end, they will return to what they like.
Reducing Processed and Packaged Foods
Most of the processed foods; that are so convenient to buy are packaged with higher levels of sugar or some sweetener to make it more palatable.
The problem with that is the hidden sugar that can come in severe forms. Reading the labels is critical when getting serious about cutting sugar from your diets.
Recently a colleague of mine was explaining how difficult it is to maintain the keto diet because of the hidden carbs in pre-packaged foods which for him was in his salad dressings.
That is not new information, but it does play a big part in staying true to your plan.
The problem is that you must plan what you are going to eat beforehand and have it prepared.
Once you make that change, it gets more routine but not any more comfortable!
Diabetic or Not
It pays pretty good health benefits to cut down on the sugar intake in our diet.
While replacing sugar with all natural sweeteners, is generally a better alternative to using one of the artificial sweeteners.
If you have diabetes or some other medical condition that restricts the amount of sugar (glucose) you can consume safely. Then the artificial sweeteners can be a better fit for you.
What type of sweeteners; is something that you must discuss with your doctor and dietitian.
The ones that I have talked with say it is okay to use small portions of the artificial sweeteners but to try to keep it to a minimum.
My Favorite Artificial Sweeteners
1) Sweet N’ Low – I know that it is not supposed to be good for you, but it tastes the best to me and probably why my favorite soft drink is Diet Coke. Just do not keep it at the house anymore and only get one now and then.
2) Splenda – This product is what my Doctors and Dietitian tell me to use because it comes from sugar.
3) Equal – Basically use this if there is not any of the first two on hand.
4) Erythritol – This is what is in Swerve, but I have only used another brand and plan to try the Swerve when I need some more. The bag lasts a long time we have been working on it for three months now. But the flavor is good and has a light feel to it. Swerve is my favorite sweetener but is not popular enough to have at restaurants.
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