Pros – Cons of Sugar Substitutes

Pros – Cons of Sugar Substitutes
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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.

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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.

Please leave your comments and suggestion in the field below.

14 thoughts on “Pros – Cons of Sugar Substitutes

  1. I have a “sweet tooth” and it’s hard for me to resist anything that’s sweet. I can’t drink coffee or tea without sugar. Sometimes even with 3-in-1 I still have to add some sweeteners because it’s not sweet enough. But being aware of the possible outcome has made me consider natural sugar substitutes instead. 

    Artificial sweeteners are definitely a no-no for me because I’ve read that they are included on the list of the top 5 cancer-causing foods, that’s scary! I’m not familiar with Stevia but I use honey and dates, as both have a lot of health benefits. 

    I agree with you, diabetic or not, we should try to cut down on our sugar intake if we want to be healthier. It is also said that sugar is the main culprit for putting on unwanted pounds. Yup, it’s going to be a struggle to cut down on sugar, it would take a lot of discipline and self control.

    Thank you for this informative post.

    1. Thanks for the comment Alice, it is a touchy subject discussing this topic. All my adult years, I have heard so many things from Doctors and from other sources about which one is better; is it sugar or something else?

      And that is still up for debate but my goal is to take a good look at the Medical Studies and see where the proof lies, to my surprise there is only one chemical that has been linked to cause cancer. 

      There are reports out there that delist it from the Carcinogens (since 2000) and that is from the “National Toxicology Program Report”  which I read in an article on http://www.cancer.gov

      I am still on the fence about this as well and my tendency is to agree that it is better to stay with the least processed sweeteners that you can find, and it needs to taste good enough to satisfy your sweet tooth or you will not use it for long.

  2. Thanks for the informative post. Just the benefits  you have listed with going sugar free, better looking skin , a collagen boost and  better more stable energy levels, is a great incentive.  I  thank my Mum, for stopping us  when growing up, from adding sugar to our tea and coffee, a true blessing now. So much of what we put into our bodies on a regular basis, are habits developed long ago and then so difficult to discard. We definitely can have withdrawal symptoms.

    Is saccharine still available or has it been taken off the market? What makes it different from other  sugar replacements?

    Thank you 

    Michele

    1. Thanks for the comment Michele, saccharine is still available and despite the bad press many people still use it on a daily basis, probably the most popular sweetener is Sweet ‘N Low which I have used for years personally and have had no side-effects or cancer. 

      Most people that I talk to pick their sweetener based on personal preference, Sweet ‘N Low has always been mine because of the taste. Best to cut down to the minimum level of sweetener even if sugar, so that our bodies adjust our taste buds to like things less sweet. 

      Sounds like our Moms were right after all, sometimes it takes too long to figure that out! 

  3. I like the way this makes me think about what I eat. Many years ago I went cold-turkey and took sugar out of my coffee. I drank upwards of 6-8 cups a day with 3 sugars in each. Within about 2 months I had lost 40 lbs. Many diet programs recommend dropping the white powders, sugar, flour and salt. I would start with sugar knowing how it helped me and articles like this certainly help people identify substitutes that could work for them. Great work!

    1. Thanks for the comment, we are trying to get people thinking more about how their diets and how it affects the way they feel on a daily basis. Losing weight is a good feeling but takes a long time to really appreciate it. 

      The way my schedule was for so long; I did not take the time to really think about what I was doing to myself. That led to being severely overweight and eventually getting type 2 diabetes before getting my attention.

      Agreed the reduction of sugar and carbs will have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being.

  4. Well, you have selected a controversial topic.  However, it is one that needs to be addressed.  A lot of our health problems could be eliminated if we improved our diet.  One improvement needed is to cut out as much sugar as possible.  With me, it is not just weight gain,but the problems sugar causes to my digestive system.  I am working on eliminating sugar.

    So what do you think of xylitol?  If I am going to use a sugar substitute, that is my choice.  It’s the sweetener used in many diabetic sweets.  To me, it tastes just like sugar.  It’s the only artificial sweeter I’ve tried that does not leave an after-taste in my mouth.  What do you know about it?  Have you tried it?

    1. Thanks for the comment Fran, I really like the sugar alcohol sweeteners over the regular sweeteners, even (Sweet ‘N Low) because of the evaporation effect it has in the mouth. 

      It is lighter and there is a better taste than sugar to me. That is my experience so far, since I quit drinking iced tea for a while, have not tried it in tea but works great in coffee. 

      Just do not have it available everywhere yet!

      From all the information I have looked at there is not anything negative to report on it… my dietitian and diabetes nurse both suggested it to me and that is why I tried it and really like it.

      Looks like you have the right idea getting off of sugar!

  5. It’s crazy how bad sugar is for us. I know I feel a lot better, my pants fit better, my skin is clearer, and my mood is better when I’m intentionally avoiding sugar. Unfortunately, this time of year is hard. I’ve been sneaking Halloween candy all day…ugh! It just sucks because now I have to pretty much start all over with killing the addiction. Oh well, such is life. I try to avoid fake sugars, too. I avoid them completely for my kids. There is just nothing about any of this stuff that is really worth it at the end of the day!

    1. Thanks for the comment Holly, this time of year is very hard not to give into the temptation of the candy, especially for those of us who love to eat candy! I almost made it last night but gave in a little and had a couple of pieces.

      Was scared checking my blood sugar this morning but it was good so guess I didn’t overdo it… sometimes, that is the best we can do!

      Good idea with your kids; maybe that way, they will not know what they are missing!

  6. Sugar can be so addictive! It isn’t easy to choose a substitute because nothing tastes the same as sugar.

    Let’s face it! It’s the truth. But the fact of the matter is that you listed some sugar substitutes that aren’t terrible.I personally like Stevia and I think it’s the best out of the choices at least for me anyway.

    Splenda would be my second choice. Although I don’t drink coffee and not much tea, I wouldn’t be using it much anyway.But the fact is that there is too much sugar in everything and we really need to turn to these substitutes because it’s healthier. Thanks for reviewing the choices we have! Would you suggest cutting out sugar and substitutes as well for some folks?

    1. If people are having trouble with diabetes then it changes what they need to focus on, for me the past several years I have been reducing the amount of sugars in my diiet but it was not enough. 

      In July of this year had to make drastic changes and that worked for me. It is not easy to do and you must listen to what the Doctors are saying. Noe it is getting better but not any easier.

      Thanks for your comments and input,

      Have a great day!

      Chad

  7. This was really informative.  I went on a low sugar, low carb diet and lost a lot of weight and felt better!  I usually try to avoid packaged foods as well.  I don’t like buying stuff that I can’t pronounce!

    I wanted to know if there are any artificial sweenters that people should avoid?  Is diet soda really worse than regular soda?

    1. From the research I have been reading, and from what my Doctors have been instructing me to do; it is best to avoid soda all together! 

      Regular sugary drinks give you too many empty carbs and calories to make them worth consuming. I personally will gain weight rapidly if I drink regular soda or juices, orange juice is bad for a type 2 diabetic, only 4 ounces can spike your blood sugar pretty high.

      Good idea to not buy stuff you can’t pronounce, I work in a chemical plant and the chemicals can be very unhealthy and even harmful in the wrong concentrations.

      In all the research I have been studying, Saccharin is the only sweetener that has three medical studies proving the link to causing cancer. So best to avoid it but the rest of them are very speculative.

      Hope that helps,

      Chad

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