When looking for a sugar substitute, there are several healthier alternatives beyond artificial sweeteners, which can satisfy your sweet tooth while saving calories.
Overconsumption of sugar (or sucrose) is one of the leading causes of weight gain and a host of other health problems that come with it. While not inherently bad for you, most people use too much of it.
When looking for ways to reduce your daily intake beyond direct consumption, the first place to look is in the ingredients list of your favourite food products. These days, sugar is just about everywhere, even if hidden in supposedly savoury food (like ketchup). High-fructose corn syrup, which is used in most manufactured products, including non-diet soda, desserts and cereals, is perhaps more widely used, than sucrose, and according to some experts, even more responsible for causing obesity.
According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 25 grams (or about 6 teaspoons) and men no more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) per day.
On top of this problem, the traditional artificial sweeteners introduced into the market since the 1970’s, have, one by one, been found to have various health risks.
Good old Sweet'n Low, introduced in the 1970’s, and made from saccharin, is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Use of it has also has been linked to the development of bladder cancer. Aspartame, found in Equal and most diet soda, has been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Splenda, which contains sucralose, can reduce gut bacteria and alter insulin responses to overall blood sugar levels. Some research has even found that use of the drug is linked to obesity and heart disease.
Artificial sweeteners, despite having few to no calories, may also actually encourage users to gain weight.
While they contain fewer calories, they stimulate appetite overall.
So, when looking for a healthier sugar replacement, where does the diet-conscious consumer turn? Luckily, there are quite a few products these days, that offer better-tasting, not to mention healthier alternatives to satisfying your sweet tooth.
Agave nectar comes from the agave cactus and tastes a great deal like honey. It does not contain as many antioxidants, but has the same amount of calories. Because it is actually sweeter than honey, it can be used in smaller quantities. However, because it contains more fructose than table sugar, it is less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Honey actually contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. Long used in many health foods as a “healthier” substitute to sugar, studies have found that it does not raise blood sugar as fast. That said, it contains 21 calories a teaspoon. Use sparingly.
Used in dairy products, pre-packaged deserts and fruit juices, Neotame is a relatively new artificial sweetener (introduced in 2002). It is between 7,000 and 13,000 times as sweet as sugar. It is also rarely used in everyday products.
Known as the natural alternative to artificial, non-sucrose-based products, Stevia is widely considered by experts to be the safest non-sucrose-based sweetener on the market. Stevia is actually a herb found in Central and South America, that is about 40 times sweeter than sugar and contains no calories. It is frequently marketed under the brand names of Sweetleaf and Truvia.