You are probably acquainted with a popular saying according to which, “fat doesn’t make you fat but sugar makes you fat.” Well, the truth is both fat and sugar can make us fat but it depends on the type of sugar and fat we choose. Eating sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates and consuming good fats found in unroasted seeds, nuts or raw coconut oil can actually help you to lose weight and stay healthy. It is true, however, that white flour product, white bread, pasta, refined grains and foods containing refined sugar can be even more responsible for obesity problem than high-fat consumption.
The rise of obesity is not only the result of overeating and lack of exercise but also the increased consumption of refined sugar as it drives the storage of fat and at the same time by stimulating insulin production forces our brain to think that we are hungry. In addition, sugar, like alcohol and lack of sleep, stimulates the stomach to produce more ghrelin which increases hunger thus contributing to overeating, leptin resistance, and obesity.
Due to the fact that sugar is being added to all kinds of cheap processed foods its worldwide consumption has tripled over the past 50 years. In many countries, people are consuming more than 500 calories worth of refined sugar every day. The average American consumes 130 pounds (about 60 kg) of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) every year! It is equivalent to 40 teaspoons per person per day! But when you take into consideration the fact that this amount is only an average it means that people who love sweet foods may consume way over 50 teaspoons a day! An average British person consumes about 60 lbs of sugar a year – the equivalent of nearly 27 bags. Much of that amount (about 75%) comes from hidden sources of sugar such as bread, salad dressings, ketchup, soups, etc.
Health experts suggest today that white sugar is so harmful to our health that it should be controlled and taxed in a similar way as alcohol and tobacco. Some scientists even believe that regular consumption of foods high in refined sugar could have a heroin addiction-like effect. A 2008 Princeton University study demonstrated that when large quantities of sugar were ingested to rats, the changes to their brains were similar to those seen with drugs such as cocaine and heroin, which means that regular consumption of refined sugar may eventually lead to addiction.
According to the scientific data sugar indirectly contributes to 35 million deaths each year worldwide. Apart from causing obesity and overweight, sugar weakens our immune and nervous system, contributes to cancer, deprives our organism of many vitamins and minerals, causes fatigue, hypoglycaemia, tooth decay, contributes to depression and many other health-related problems.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), indicated that participants whose diet was highest in added sugar had the lowest levels of the profitable HDL cholesterol and the highest levels of triglycerides thus greatly increasing sorbithe risk of heart disease or stroke. In contrast, those who consumed the least amounts of added sugar had the highest levels of good HDL cholesterol and the lowest levels of triglycerides. It is therefore very important in terms of health how much sugar do you consume and what kind of sweetener you choose and includes in your diet.
There are many different terms used with reference to sugar we need to explain. Simple carbohydrates (simple sugars) refer to monosaccharides and disaccharides. Common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and galactose. And among common disaccharides we have sucrose (glucose+fructose), found in sugar beets, sugar cane, corn syrup, or honey; maltose (glucose+glucose), and lactose (glucose+galactose), found in milk products. The term complex carbohydrates (grains, vegetables, fruits) is used with reference to polysaccharides such as starch (potato, bread, pasta, rice, etc.).
There are three dietary monosaccharides (single sugar units), glucose, fructose, and galactose, which don’t require farther digestion in our digestive system but are directly absorbed into the bloodstream from our intestines.
Glucose is a monosaccharide (single sugar unit) sometimes called a simple sugar. Like fructose, glucose is made by plants in a process called photosynthesis. It is the main source of energy for our body and has a very high glycaemic index. As long as we are physically active and provide our body with proper amounts of glucose in the form of unrefined plant foods we are able to maintain good health. The problem starts when we do not exercise and at the same time consume too much glucose hidden in refined foods containing bad sugars or white flour, which is converted into sugar in our body.
Fructose, like glucose, is also a monosaccharide (single sugar unit) and it is added to many popular foods and drinks. In our body fructose is converted to glucose by the liver, stored there as glycogen or utilized to synthesize triglycerides and stored in adipose (fat) tissue thus contributing to obesity. Fructose is found in abundance especially in fruits, vegetables, and honey. Eaten with moderation in the form of fruits, fructose is harmless because it is still bound to fibre which slows down its metabolism rate and contributes to a sense of fullness.
Pure fructose is rarely used alone but usually, it is consumed together with glucose as a component of fruit juices, table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Consumed in higher than needed doses fructose should be regarded as harmful and responsible for the obesity, fatty live and diabetes epidemic. Unlike glucose which glycaemic index (GI) is very high fructose has a low GI. Unfortunately, most of the fructose is quickly converted in our body into fat and therefore is regarded as very unhealthy and one of the key causes of obesity and type two diabetes. Especially harmful is the very commonly used today high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), also called high-glucose corn syrup.
The glycaemic index shows how quickly the blood sugar level rises after eating a particular type of food. At the same time, it also indicates how much insulin the pancreas must produce after consuming different foods in order to regulate the blood sugar level. Fructose has a low GI because it is processed mostly in the liver, and therefore requires much less insulin to be released by the pancreas. However, for the same reason, a diet which is high in fructose burdens our liver. Unfortunately, there are reasons to believe that although small amounts of fructose (in fruits) shouldn’t be harmful yet a lot (high fructose syrup) might be dangerous. Present scientific data indicates that higher doses of fructose consumed in the form of table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup is as harmful as glucose and can even trigger a certain process which leads to liver toxicity, fatty liver, obesity, type two diabetes, and some other chronic diseases.
Besides, although fructose does not raise blood sugar level as much as glucose, it elevates levels of triglycerides thus increasing risk for heart disease. When glucose is consumed in the form of refined sugar it is very unhealthy, yet at least most of it in our body is used to produce energy, but fructose is mostly converted to fat causing an even bigger problem.
Galactose is another monosaccharide found mainly in milk and dairy products. Together with glucose, galactose creates disaccharide lactose another sugar found most notably in milk and dairy. Since many people (especially black) are lactose intolerant milk consumption often causes gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, indigestion and gas.
Sucrose (table sugar) is a little bit more complex than glucose and fructose as it is a mixture of equal amounts of these two simple sugars (fructose and glucose). For this reason, it is called a disaccharide (two sugar units linked together) and it is commonly found in fruits and vegetables. The greatest quantities of sucrose occur in sugar cane or sugar beets from which it is separated for commercial use and sold as a harmful white refined table sugar.
Dextrose is another simple sugar made from corn and is chemically identical to glucose (blood sugar). Dextrose is often used in baking products and nutritional supplements as a sweetener and can be commonly found in items such as processed foods and corn syrup. Because dextrose is a simple sugar, its consumption increases blood glucose levels in a similar way as glucose does. It also lacks nutritional value. Of course, dextrose shouldn’t be used by diabetics, also because they might not be able to process dextrose as quickly as would someone without the condition.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is regarded as the most common form of fructose in which fructose and glucose occur in almost equal amounts. HFCS is even more detrimental to our health than refined sugar and has become ubiquitous in many processed foods and especially soft drinks. It has a similar negative influence on our health as fructose (see “fructose”).
Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide, which is a type of carbohydrate. It is widely used food additive with a very high glycaemic index of 110-150! It is often used to thicken liquid products and as a sneaky way to sweeten processed foods without using the word, “sugar”. In addition, it can give food a fat-like consistency due to its thickening properties. Usually extracted from corn, it is then hydrolysed by adding enzymes and acids, and purified, becoming basically the same as Corn Syrup. It is very often derived from Genetically Modified corn. Its glycaemic index is twice as high as that of table sugar causing an unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels. Maltodextrin has been used by some athletes due to it’s ability to produce bursts of quick energy. Unfortunately, because maltodextrin cannot be metabolized, the body stores it as fat! Easily absorbed carbohydrates get into our bloodstream quickly, and if they aren’t used for energy, they’re stored as fat. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates from whole grains are broken down and absorbed slowly, keeping us feeling full and energized for a longer period of time. Maltodextrin can also change the composition of your gut bacteria by suppressing the growth of beneficial probiotics.
Fruit juices even in their pure form are also high in deprived of fibre sugar (fructose and glucose) which quickly gets into our bloodstream elevating blood sugar level and thus stimulating insulin production. For this reason, you should avoid drinking fruit juices and instead eat whole and fresh fruits where sugar is still bound with fibre which helps to slow down the absorption of sugar. In between meals drink only pure water or unsweetened herbal teas.
Maltose (malt sugar) is another disaccharide formed from two units of glucose. It is half as sweet as table sugar (sucrose) and produced from barley, wheat, rice, and other grains. In our bodies, maltose is converted into glucose. It is almost as harmful as refined table sugar (disaccharide).
Barley malt syrup is a sweetener produced from sprouted or malted barley. It usually contains approximately 65 percent of maltose, about 30 percent complex of carbohydrates, and a little bit of protein. Malt syrup is a thick, sticky, and dark brown substance which has a characteristic flavour. It is less sweet than white sugar but regarded as or less harmful as it is a bit slower-digesting sweetener. However, barley malt syrup is still 65% maltose, which is quite high on the glycaemic index, so it should be used wisely.
Agave nectar is almost all fructose (55% to 97%), contains more calories than sugar and is much lower in the glycaemic index. However, since agave is sweeter than sugar it can be used in significantly smaller doses.
Unlike refined sugar and other harmful sweeteners, agave contains some nutrients such as calcium, iron, or magnesium. Since agave is high in fructose, in cases of overweight it seems better to interchangeably use sweet dried fruits, moderate amounts of raw unrefined honey (consumed with high-fibre foods), and other sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia, or consume agave only occasionally always mixing it with foods rich in fibre.
Unfortunately, although fructose does not raise insulin levels yet due to high fructose content it increases insulin resistance, which might be even more dangerous. Agave is not regarded as safe for pregnant women due to naturally occurring steroids. Since agave nectar is so high in fructose please read the information about fructose in order to know how agave may influence your health. Unfortunately, according to some specialists such as Dr Mercola, most agave syrups or agave nectars are only a highly condensed, refined, and unhealthy fructose syrup. Therefore, if you decide to use agave as a sweetener make sure you buy only good quality and unrefined nectar from the local health food shops. Such agave should be organic and processed at low temperatures to preserve all the natural enzymes as it will be lower in fructose. Finally, remember that small quantities of fructose (1 tablespoon a day) in the form of agave nectar should be harmless, on condition that you don’t use additional high sources of fructose in your diet.
SomerSweet (promoted by Suzanne Somer) is a totally natural pre-biotic sweet soluble fibre and is usually made from chicory fibre inulin. It can be used as table sugar to sweeten food and drinks. SomerSweet contains the following ingredients: Oligofructose, inulin, fructose, sprouted mung bean extract & acesulfame K. But even those tests indicate that the additive causes cancer in animals, which means it may increase cancer risk in humans. There are some very beneficial ingredients in this sweetener such as inulin but there is also some fructose and especially the last one – acesulfame K is regarded as potentially harmful because in some animal studies it caused cancer in animals.
Date sugar can be regarded as a healthy sugar substitute because it consists of only 100% dehydrated and ground dates and is therefore high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, it does not dissolve in liquids.
Monk fruit (Asian melon) is another sweet fruit which has similar properties to stevia, and is also very low in calories and loaded with antioxidants. Some sources suggest that it is over 100 to even 200 times sweeter than sugar due to the fact that it is packed with antioxidants known as mogrosides that have a very sweet taste. These mogrosides contain zero calories, are unique to monk fruit, and are not actually regarded as sugars. It seems that this fruit can be used as a really healthy sweetener which, due to its heat stability, should be regarded as healthier than even stevia especially as an ingredient of foods which require heating. Monk fruit is one of the ingredients found in the new sweetener called Nectresse.
Honey is mainly a mixture of two monosaccharides fructose and glucose, and it is made by bees using nectar from flowers. It is up to 50 percent sweeter than white sugar, has a much lower glycaemic index and therefore does not elevate the blood sugar levels so quickly.
Unlike refined sugar, honey contains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and some other beneficial substances. In a study which was published in the Scientific World Journal, two groups of participants were given equal amounts of either honey or sugar. As a result only those who consumed honey on a regular basis actually slightly reduced their body weight! It should be remembered that sometimes honey may contain dormant endospores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can be dangerous to infants.
Buy only raw organic honey from health food shops as over 70% of all honey in the market are fake (have added sugar)!
Manuka honey has a reputation as a healing skin, wounds and ulcers (including stomach ulcers) agent. It is also believed to have an antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It is produced almost exclusively in New Zealand and Australia from the nectar of the manuka trees, and that is why it is quite expensive.
Honey contains a naturally occurring active ingredient, which can be easily destroyed when exposed to light and heat. Manuka honey, however, contains an additional ingredient which is much more stable and doesn’t easily lose its potency when exposed to heat. The level of active component in manuka honey is measured by UMF number (Unique Manuka Factor). The higher the UMF number, the more potent the honey is supposed to be.
Maple syrup is made from the boiled sap of sugar maple trees. It is similar to sugar with respect to calorie content, but unlike refined sugar, apart from sucrose, it consists also of small amounts of organic acids, natural phenols (potentially beneficial antioxidants), potassium, calcium, iron, and significant amounts of zinc and manganese. Maple syrup has a medium glycaemic index, and like honey, it should be consumed in moderation.
Brown sugar is either an unrefined or refined sugar mixed with molasses. Its colour depends on the amount of molasses added. Light brown sugar contains about 3.5% molasses while dark brown sugar may contain 6.5% of molasses. Usually, brown sugar is only marginally healthier than white sugar as it is actually 97% sucrose, with 2% of water, and 1% other substances. The more molasses is added to the brown sugar the greater is its nutritional value.
Raw sugar should not be confused with brown sugar as it is the residue left after molasses has been removed from sugar cane. Like brown sugar raw sugar differs very little from white sugar, except that its crystals are larger and have some colour. Raw sugar usually has slightly less nutritive value than brown sugar. The calories of raw sugar and brown sugar are the same.
Molasses is a by-product of the refining of sugar cane or sugar beets into sugar, and unlike refined sugar, it contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of minerals, especially iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Molasses is regarded as a healthy sweetener but unfortunately, the majority of consumers are not pleased with its strong characteristic taste.
Coconut palm sugar is made by heating the coconut palm nectar and evaporating its water content. Coconut sugar contains some nutrients and has a lower glycaemic index than refined sugar. Most of the palm sugars are blended with white sugar. Pure and certified organic coconut palm sugar is available in health food shops. Unlike palm sugar which is made from the sap of the tree the coconut palm sugar is made from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. The quality of the coconut palm sugar varies greatly depending on the type of tree the sap is collected from, the age of the tree, and the time of year. Regular table sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose, while high-fructose corn syrup is roughly 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Despite frequent claims that coconut sugar is effectively fructose-free, it’s made of 70–80% sucrose, which is half fructose. For this reason, coconut sugar supplies almost the same amount of fructose as regular sugar, gram for gram. Although it’s not as processed as refined sugar and contains minor amounts of nutrients yet if you’re going to use coconut sugar, use it sparingly or interchangeably with other better sweeteners. It’s healthier than refined sugar but definitely worse than no sugar at all.
Nectresse is supposed to be 100 % natural, made from the extract of a monk fruit which is about 150 times sweeter than sugar, and contain zero calories per serving. The main ingredient of this sweetener is actually erythritol, sugar alcohol commonly derived from corn. The second ingredient in Nectresse is common sugar, which comes from sugar beets. And the monk fruit is only the third ingredient in Nectresse while the last one is molasses. The producer of Nectresse explains that it contains a small amount of carbohydrate (1-2 grams per serving) to provide needed texture and volume.
Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol, maltitol, lactitol, or and isomalt are found in plants but are generally manufactured from starches and sugars. They are lower in calories than sugars because they are not completely absorbed by the body. Sugar alcohols don’t contribute to tooth decay. They may also help with weight control as they have fewer calories than regular sugar.
Different sugar alcohols can affect blood sugar differently. When consumed in large amounts, usually more than 50 grams but sometimes even as little as 10 grams, sugar alcohols tend to impose a laxative effect, causing bloating and intestinal gas. The moderate use of sugar alcohol might be a healthier choice than refined sugar or artificial sweeteners but again you would be much better off consuming sweet fresh and dried fruits or a little bit of unrefined honey.
Xylitol is the most popular among sugar alcohols and it is found in many plants and also in our body. It was originally made for birch but today is usually extracted from corn. Xylitol provides almost two times fewer calories per gram than sugar and has a much lower Glycaemic Index. Another good thing is that only about 25 percent of the amount consumed is absorbed, metabolized in our liver and converted into glucose.
Yes, unlike stevia, xylitol still has some calories, but it is metabolized much slower than glucose and is free from negative effects of fructose. Unlike most other sugars, which have six carbon atoms in the molecule xylitol is a five-carbon sugar. This difference changes its properties and means that, unlike many other sugars, it actually helps to prevent the growth of bacteria. Xylitol can work as a prebiotic as some beneficial bacteria in the intestines ferment xylitol into short-chain fatty acids which prevent colon cancer, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Its taste is very similar to the popular cane sugar but in terms of health, it is regarded as a totally different substance. Unlike sugar which impairs leptin hormonal signalling resulting in increased hunger and weight gain, xylitol may boost satiety effect leading to reduced calorie consumption. It does not stimulate insulin or increase blood sugar, and it even prevents tooth decay. Usually, people who start using xylitol can eat up to 25 grams (1 ounce) with no side effects. Only consumed in larger quantities xylitol may induce diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, or gas. Also, the kind of minty flavour of xylitol may not be suitable for all recipes, foods or drinks.
The GreenMedInfo gives the following summary of different based on scientific research beneficial effects of xylitol: “Xylitol reduces visceral fat accumulation and metabolic parameters associated with obesity, inhibits carcinogenic acetaldehyde production by Candida species, is more effective than sorbitol for preventing dental caries, may prevent the development of acute otitis media (middle ear infection), can be used not only as a sugar substitute but also as a supplement to antidiabetic food and other food products, improves bone biomechanical properties, normalizes urea synthesis.”
Although by now xylitol seems to be safe for humans, it is toxic to dogs.
Erythritol occurs naturally in many fruits, mushrooms and foods derived from fermentation. It’s commonly used as a sweetener in reduced-calorie foods, and it has no aftertaste. It has no calories and doesn’t seem to cause the same digestive problems as other sugar alcohols. But consuming it may lead to acid reflux and dehydration. Researchers found erythritol to act as a strong antioxidant with a positive effect on blood vessels. A study suggested that erythritol might be a preferred sugar substitute for people with diabetes. Like other sugar alcohols, erythritol doesn’t lead to tooth decay. A study in Caries Research found that erythritol might be better for tooth health than xylitol. And compared to xylitol, erythritol can be fully absorbed by our bodies, causing less digestive distress. Plus, erythritol doesn’t raise blood sugar at all, while xylitol has a small impact.
It is 70 per cent as sweet as sugar even though it has only 5 per cent of the calories of sugar (Xylitol is 100 per cent as sweet as sugar). A two-thirds cup of Erythritol is equivalent to one cup of sugar.
It is absorbed through the small intestines. It can be safely mixed with other sugars since there is no evidence that it can cause adverse effects. Despite long-term feeding of high amounts of erythritol, no serious side effects have been detected (>, >). Most sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues. However, erythritol is different than the other sugar alcohols. Most of it gets absorbed into the bloodstream before it reaches the colon (>). It circulates in the blood for a while, until it is eventually excreted unchanged in the urine. About 90% of erythritol is excreted this way (>). Although erythritol doesn’t have any serious side effects, eating high amounts may cause digestive upset, as explained in the next chapter.
Make sure xylitol or erythritol are non-GMO (as otherwise, it’s most likely derived from corn).
Erythritol is extracted through fermentation, not sugar hydrogenation (like xylitol). Fermentation is more natural.
The taste of xylitol is the most similar to sugar as far as sweetness and flavour go.
When a liquid with Erythritol dries in a glass, it leaves behind fine, white crystals.
Xylitol contains 2.4 calories per gram while Erythritol contains 0.2 calories per gram.
Xylitol is made from U.S.-grown, hardwood trees while Erythritol is made from sugar with a fermenting agent added.
Xylitol ranks seven on the glycaemic index scale while Erythritol ranks zero.
Maltitol is another sugar alcohol used as a sugar substitute. It has 75–90% of the sweetness of sucrose (table sugar) and nearly identical properties. It is used to replace table sugar because it is half as energetic and does not promote tooth decay. Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that has been extracted from starches like corn, essentially by hydrogenating (or adding hydrogen to) starches like corn starch. Maltitol can’t be fully digested in our bodies and may ferment in the gut, and if consumed in excessive amounts may produce gas, bloating, etc. Maltitol syrup has a glycaemic index of 52 (lower than that of the table sugar – 60-75 but higher than other sugar alcohols). The powdered form has a glycaemic index of 35 (still higher than most other sugar alcohols).
Stevia is a popular plant or herb which has an incredibly sweet taste and is grown in South and Central America. It is rich in steviol glycosides which are responsible for the sweet taste of this plant. It is estimated that in isolated and purified form steviol glycosides are even 300 times sweeter than refined sugar. Rebiana is the trade name for the key ingredient of stevia plant rebaudioside. In order to derive rebiana from the stevia leaves many chemicals have to be used including acetone, acetonitrile, or methanol. Unlike sugar, the glycosides from stevia are not absorbed in the human body but instead, they are completely removed with the urine with no accumulation! According to WHO the safe level for steviol glycosides is up to 4 mg per kilogram of body weight. Stevia s believed to reduce hypertension and improve insulin sensitivity.
A research conducted by toxicologists Kobylewski & Eckhert suggested that stevia could contribute to cancer. Reviewing the scientific literature and studies on stevia they noticed that stevioside caused chromosome damage and mutations in animals which presumably could contribute to cancer. However, there are no studies which could confirm that stevioside in stevia can actually cause cancer in animal models. In Japan, where artificial sweeteners are banned and replaced by stevia, this sugar substitute is very popular and regarded as safe. And this conclusion is based on thousands of clinical studies on stevia. The only problem is that there is still a need for long-term studies to confirm it.
The GreenMedInfo gives the following summary of different beneficial effects of stevia, all based on scientific research: “Stevia has a blood pressure-lowering effect in patients with mild essential hypertension, has significant antioxidant properties, increases glucose tolerance in human subjects, reduces blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients, contains compounds which enhance the insulin secretion of beta cells, improves and protects beta-cell function during glucotoxicity, prevents diabetes-associated adverse kidney changes, is anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory, is beneficial as a dietary supplementation for promoting muscle recovery from injury”.
On the other hand, we need to be wise and careful using sweeteners based on stevia remembering that it is still just a chemically processed powder that has been removed from the stevia leaf in a similar way as the refined sugar is separated from sugar beets and sugar cane. Apart from that, unlike xylitol which still can be regarded as sugar as it is a sugar-alcohol, stevia is not a sugar, and this fact, in my opinion, maybe one of the cons for using stevia as a sugar substitute. I believe so because whenever sweeteners such as stevia or the very harmful artificial sweeteners are consumed, our taste buds still interpret these substances as sugar. In this way, our taste buds deceive brain and cause it to think that we’ve just eaten something with sugar, even though there was no sugar in it. Thus being persuaded that the blood sugar level is going to be higher, the brain sends signals to our pancreas to produce insulin. Pancreas, therefore, quickly release some insulin to lower the sugar level in spite of the fact that it wasn’t needed as the food didn’t contain sugar. If this hypothesis is true then it is not beneficial in case of obesity to have increased levels of insulin as it would still tend to increase appetite.
In addition, there is a danger that when you keep on eating foods with artificial sweeteners or stevia which are sweet but do not raise blood sugar the pancreas may eventually stop releasing insulin as soon as it ‘realizes’ that the sugar level is always normal. But when after some time you again start consuming foods which contain ‘true’ sugar the pancreas may refuse to produce insulin, although now it is needed. This, however, is only a theory which in order to be accepted as true needs to be scientifically confirmed. But if this is true then using isolated sweeteners that chemically can’t be classified as sugars may lead to a kind of chaos and confusion in our body and disturb the proper communication existing between brain and pancreas.
In my opinion, it is better to not use any processed sweeteners because a diet which is free from added sugar or sweeteners refines and improves our taste causing that all the naturally sweet foods become taster and sweeter. If you have a sweet tooth try to satisfy your taste by eating sweet fresh and dried fruits. But if you feel like you still need to use sweeteners, it probably seems better if you use moderate doses of xylitol or stevia instead of refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, at least according to the knowledge we possess today. You can also interchangeably mix your rich in fibre foods with some honey, agave nectar, banana powder, date sugar, molasses, or other good natural sweeteners but don’t do it often as they are usually quite high in calories and tend to stimulate insulin production.
If you decide to use and buy a sweetener such as stevia, which is available in powder, liquid or tablet form, the very important thing is to check the other ingredients which often accompany stevia. For example, stevia is often mixed with maltodextrin which has the highest glycaemic index and thus it is very efficient in raising the insulin levels. Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate that is used as an additive to enhance the ability to use stevia sweeteners with different foods and drinks. Maltodextrin is sweet in taste and contains fewer calories than sugar. It can be described as a partially hydrolysed starch usually made from corn, rice, or potatoes by cooking down the starch. It is often used as a bulking agent in sugar substitutes. Maltodextrin does not change the flavour of the stevia sweetener but dilutes the rebiana extract to make it measurable. Although classified as a complex carbohydrate, maltodextrin behaves in human body in exactly the same way as simple carbohydrate, like glucose or dextrose, being absorbed very quickly and causing the pancreas to flood the body with insulin. A German study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology clearly demonstrated that maltodextrin increases the risk of overweight. The participants who received maltodextrin gained on average one pound in the first month, while those who didn’t lose one pound.
There are some brands that offer stevia sweeteners without maltodextrin or other undesired ingredients. Pure Stevia Extract Powder by KAL is regarded by many as the best option by now. Also, the Now Foods BetterStevia (75 packets), the Sweetleaf Stevia in powder or liquid form, and NuNaturals (liquid) do not contain maltodextrin. The best way to make sure you get a better quality product is to check the ingredients and online reviews before buying any stevia sweeteners.
Erythritol and inulin are the other ingredients often added to stevia and shouldn’t be regarded as bad. Erythritol is a non-calorie sugar alcohol produced by fermenting vegetables. It is added to stevia to improve its flavour. Inulin is a non-digestible fibre used to improve the usage of stevia extract. Inulin soluble fibre is a naturally occurring fibre found in many vegetables. It is regarded as beneficial as it reduces the growth of harmful bacteria or increases the absorption of calcium in our body.
Truvia is another very popular sweetener (made by Coca-Cola teamed up with a company called Cargill). It contains erythritol (sugar alcohol made by fermenting glucose with yeast) and rebiana (stevia leave extract). According to scientific research, erythritol has very similar effects as xylitol but rebiana is not the same as stevia as it is only an extract derived from a stevia plant. The (disappointing) truth is that, in spite of the fact that Truvia is marketed as a stevia-based sugar substitute, it is not even close to it. According to Dr Mercola, “Truvia makes use of only certain active ingredients and not the entire plant. Rebaudioside A (extracted from stevia) is the agent that provides most of the sweet taste of the plant. Usually, it’s the synergistic effect of all the agents in the plant that provide the overall health effect, which often includes built-in protection against potentially damaging effects. In one toxicology review, the researchers point out that stevioside compounds and rebaudioside A are metabolized at different rates, making it impossible to assess the risk of rebaudioside A from toxicity assessments of stevioside (which has been used as food and medicine in Japan and South America for decades or longer). Additionally, in a human metabolism study, stevioside and rebaudioside A had different pharmacokinetic results. In layman’s terms, that means that your body reacts differently to the two compounds; each compound is metabolized differently and remains in your body for different lengths of time.”
Artificial sweeteners are regarded as the worst sugar substitutes. Many believe they are not only toxic but even addictive making people crave for more sweet foods and thus causing weight gain, rather than weight loss. According to Dr Blaylock “Absolutely no one should be eating artificial sweeteners”.
The non-nutritive sweeteners which are permitted for use in the UK include saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K), and cyclamate. It is very interesting that although they are virtually free of calories, and do not affect blood glucose levels yet a recent study from Purdue University demonstrated that using these sweeteners instead of the natural sugars may actually lead to weight gain, instead of weight loss!
The first one was saccharin which is 700 times sweeter than table sugar and became extremely popular until it was linked with cancer. However, in spite of the fact, many experts believe today that saccharin is less harmful than other artificial sweeteners.
Cyclamate was another early non-nutritive sweetener which was later linked with cancer in animals.
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) is 200 times sweeter than sugar, and it was regarded as safe until it was linked with brain tumours, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and other health problems. According to the study by Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences aspartame actually breaks down in human organism to formaldehyde, which in turn causes double-strand damage in the DNA thus leading to cancer.
Another study, which was published in 2012, concludes that safety of aspartame was approved in 90 Nations, in spite of the fact that it damages the human brain! Other adverse effects that consumers of products with aspartame have reported may include seizures, fatigue, migraines, depression, memory loss, confusion, nausea, etc. Some doctors also suggest that since in children the special barrier or natural organism’s protection which is to prevent unwelcome chemicals from entering the brain hasn’t developed yet, they shouldn’t be allowed to consume foods containing aspartame.
Neotame is the newest artificial sweetener. Chemically it is very close to aspartame, and like aspartame, it metabolizes into formaldehyde in our body. But there is one significant difference: neotame contains 3-di-methylbutyl, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) should be regarded as one of the most hazardous chemicals. 3-di-methylbutyl is described as highly flammable and an irritant to eyes, skin, and respiratory system.
Sucralose (Splenda) began the process of replacing aspartame as it has been forced out by increasing public awareness. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. Like aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal) it has no calories and the same sweet taste as white sugar. Sucralose is manufactured from the common table sugar (sucrose, glucose disaccharide) by adding three chlorine atoms to each molecule of the table sugar. This process makes sucralose indigestible and unable to recognize by our body as a carbohydrate to use it for energy. Some experts maintain sucralose should be regarded as dangerous as aspartame. One of the reasons is the fact that it contains the same atoms of chlorine that are used to disinfect swimming pools! For example, according to a 2013 in-depth study review published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, sucralose (sold under the brand name Splenda), releases very dangerous and cancer-causing dioxins in food when baked or heated. Sucralose was actually first discovered as a new type of pesticide in 1976 by British scientists. Its chemical structure, therefore, is closer to that of pesticides rather than sugars. For this reason, it is now a well-known fact that Splenda is very effective in killing ants such as the fire ants. If these ants invaded your house with no intention to leave, everything you need to get rid of them is to sprinkle them with Splenda and it will surely do the trick and kill them! So, please, don’t follow the example of a certain person who wrote, “After having aspartame poisoning, which was misdiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis, I had to change sweeteners so now I use Splenda or real sugar. I think the real thing is always better for you” :-).
Chlorine is toxic and is not found in any food or table salt but the manufacturer of Splenda will tell you it is fine because it is present in food and table salt. What they won’t tell you is the fact that table salt is safe because unlike Splenda (sucralose) it isn’t a chlorocarbon! It means that because in salt sodium is bound to chlorine the carbon isn’t included. According to Dr Steven Hotze, any chlorinated hydrocarbon (such as sucralose) should be regarded as carcinogenic and toxic!
There are also many other reasons to classify Aspartame, Splenda, and any other artificial sweeteners as unhealthy. For example, the researchers from Purdue University surprisingly demonstrated that animals fed with foods sweetened with non-caloric artificial sweetener gained more weight than animals that were given foods with white sugar! It is believed that this shocking effect was caused by the fact that after consuming food which is sweet the organism still expects a high sugar and calorie intake. As a result, brain still stimulates the pancreas to release insulin but as soon as it receives signals that no sugar was actually consumed it boosts appetite even more thus increasing food and calorie intake. It also means that because all artificial sweeteners have no calories they tend to deceive and confuse our body. Besides, it has been already proven that artificial sweeteners have many adverse health effects and may lead to migraine headaches, decreased red blood cell count, DNA damage, cancer, bowel inflammation, and many other health-related problems. Now, if you decide to not consume aspartame nor sucralose you must be very careful to read ingredients as three are thousands of products containing these sweeteners.
The glycaemic index indicates the amount of glucose released in the human organism by a particular food over a period of two to three hours. In order to cope with obesity or overweight you need to choose foods and sweeteners which slowly release glucose into the blood and therefore are regarded as low on the glycaemic index.
Here you will find some examples of popular sweeteners and sweet foods with their glycaemic index:
Stevia – 0, Truvia – 0, xylitol – 7, fructose – 19, agave nectar – 20, raw honey – 30, coconut palm sugar – 35, apple juice – 40, barley malt syrup – 42, sugar cane juice – 43, organic sugar – 47, maple syrup – 54, black strap molasses – 55, raw sugar – 65, cola drinks and most sodas – 70, refined table sugar (sucrose) – 70, corn syrup – 75, refined pasteurized honey – 75, brown rice syrup – 85, high fructose corn syrup – 87, glucose -100, maltodextrin – 150.
Erythritol – 0
Mannitol – 0
Stevia – 0
Truvia – 0
Saccharin – 0 (bad)
Aspartame – 0 (dangerous)
Sucralose – 0 (dangerous)
Isomalt – 2
Xylitol – 7
Sorbitol – 9
Fructose – 19
Agave nectar – 20
Raw honey – 30
Coconut palm sugar – 35
Maltitol powder – 35
Apple juice – 40
Barley malt syrup – 42
Sugar cane juice – 43
Organic sugar – 47
Unsweetened grapefruit juice – 48
Unsweetened orange juice – 50
Maltitol syrup – 52
Maple syrup – 54
Blackstrap molasses – 55 (good)
Raw sugar – 65 (almost as bad as refined sugar)
Orange juice 66 – 76
Cola drinks and most sodas – 70
Refined table sugar (sucrose) – 70 (dangerous)
Corn syrup – 75 (dangerous)
Refined pasteurized honey – 75
Brown rice syrup – 85
High fructose corn syrup – 87 (dangerous)
Dextrose – 96-100
Maltodextrin – 110-50 (dangerous)
Please remember that consuming these sugars and sweeteners with foods rich in fibre (such as oatmeal, whole wheat or rye bread, seeds, nuts, fresh and dried fruits, etc.) will lower the glycaemic index. For example, glucose consumed with 15-20 grams of fibre can reduce its glycaemic index from 100 to 60-80. However, adding sugar to a tea or other drinks does not change anything. For this reason, it is much healthier to drink only water or unsweetened herbal teas between meals.
Another important thing you need to keep in mind is that although it is beneficial to avoid foods with high glycaemic index yet on the other hand it is actually a poor indicator of how healthy a food is as there are foods of low nutritional value which may have low GI. For this reason, I don’t recommend choosing healthy foods based only on GI.
Glycaemic Index (GI) vs Glycaemic Load (GL)
The glycaemic index (GI) refers to how quickly the carbohydrates of a specific food raise the glucose level of the blood. The higher the number on the GI (1-100), the quicker the carbs are converted into sugar. Quick conversion should be avoided, as our body performs best when carbs are converted slowly over longer time and when sugar levels are increased slowly and do not exceed normal levels. Although our brain and body need glucose to function properly, too much and too fast lead to health problems. A low GI rating of a food does not mean you can eat a larger serve of that food – the total amount of carbohydrate and kilojoules eaten is also important.
The glycaemic load (GL) refers to the glycaemic index and the amount of carbohydrate in the food. The glycemic load is calculated by taking a foods glycemic index, multiplying it by the carbohydrate content (in grams) and divided by 100. The GL is more reliable than the GI. For example, the glycemic index of watermelon is 72, which is very high and causing our blood sugar to rise rapidly. However, since watermelon is mostly water, the glycemic load of the same serving of watermelon is only 4, which is extremely low. This is so because the carbohydrate content of watermelon is very small due to the high content of water. So, although your blood sugar levels may rise quickly, they will not remain elevated for a long time, because of the very little amount of carbs in watermelon.
Foods between 10 and 20 on the glycemic load are considered moderate and will not elevate blood glucose for long time. Foods with a GL higher than 20, should be eaten sporadically, as they will spike blood sugar and keep them high for longer contributing to health problems.
It can be hard to talk about glucose without mentioning fructose. Fructose is considered to be a low GI food, with a value of only 19, meaning it causes much less insulin secretion than glucose. Our body needs glucose and uses it for energy. High levels of fructose in your body are stored in the form of a fat. In addition, excess fructose in your body can cause seven times more cell damage than excess glucose. This is another reason why you have to be careful when judging foods solely by their glycemic index value. Excess fructose consumption isn’t good for you, but its glycemic value is only 19.
An interesting study compared apple slices, applesauce and apple juice of two kinds (with or without fiber) eaten just before starting lunch. The apple slices reduced the total intake of energy during lunch by 91 kcals less than that seen with applesauce, and 150 kcals less than with apple juice, while producing feelings of satiety and reducing feelings of hunger.
Again, this demonstrates the positive health benefits of eating fruit shortly before a meal by its effect upon total energy intake during the meal. In whatever form the fruit was consumed, it led to a lower total intake, which was much more marked with whole fruit than with juice (even with fiber), and intermediate with applesauce.
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