The Sweetener Wars

People eat more sugar now than they ever have before and it shows in the waistlines of people all over the world; in the US alone people consume 400 times more sugar than they did in 19701. What is it that makes sugar so appealing and oftentimes addictive?  Understanding sugar’s addictive qualities and breaking a sugar habit is difficult so you need to know about the many alternatives and their side effects.  There are many questions raised about what sweeteners are safe to use in place of sugar; from Sweet n’ Low (saccharine), Equal (aspartame), Xylitol, Splenda (sucralose), to Stevia (steviol).  Let’s look at all of the sweeteners independently:

 Sucrose:

  • Derived from sugar cane or corn
  • Causes rapid blood sugar spiking and falling
  • Not safe for diabetics
  • Low potency sweetener

Saccharine:

  • High potency sweetener
  • Does not cause blood sugar spiking
  • Safe for diabetics
  • Dangerous for persons with phenylketonuria (PKU); a metabolic genetic disorder that renders the body unable to metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine.
  • Can have a bitter after taste

Aspartame:

  • High potency sweetener
  • Does not cause blood sugar spiking
  • Safe for diabetics
  • Known to cause migraines in certain people
  • Can have a bitter aftertaste

Xylitol:

  • High potency sweetener
  • Does not cause blood sugar spiking
  • Safe for diabetics
  • Derived from sugar alcohols
  • Excess consumption can cause gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhea

Sucralose:

  • High potency sweetener
  • Does not cause blood sugar spiking
  • Safe for diabetics
  • Known to cause migraines in certain people
  • Can have a bitter aftertaste

Steviol:

  • High potency sweetener
  • Does not cause blood sugar spiking
  • Safe for diabetics
  • Known to cause migraines in certain people
  • Can have a bitter aftertaste

 Of course you always have the option to drink your coffee black, your tea unsweetened, and even drinking just plain water instead of sweetened beverages, but you should also make modifications to the foods that you eat.  If you find that you absolutely have to have something sweet or that you have a hard time saying no to traditional sweets such as cookies and pastries, try sating your sweet tooth with more natural options. Perhaps some toast with nut butter and honey (sweet and satisfying), some blueberries and strawberries (super sweet and full of antioxidants), and maybe even a sliced apple with a dusting of cinnamon (sweet and exotic). There are so many ways to feed your sugar cravings without adding sugar or a sugar substitute and consuming needed vitamins and healthy calories as a bonus.  Replace artificially sweetened processed foods with more natural alternatives like agave nectar, maple syrup or molasses to name a few.

 This certainly doesn’t mean you can never use sugar or other sweeteners.  Just keep in mind that each sweetener has a potential drawback such as needing to use more to achieve desired sweetness (sucrose), or being dangerous for persons without certain enzyme functions (aspartame). However, if you choose to use sweeteners you can now make an educated decision based on the facts and the effects of each of the sweeteners and decide which one will work best for you. When you are craving sweet foods try and swap out the processed cookies and pastries for a more natural option so that you can to reap the additional health benefits of fruits and nut butters. Always remember to use sugar and sweeteners in moderation– they should add a bit of sweetness to your diet and should not be a staple component of it!

Have a healthy week!

1http://waroninsulin.com/nutrition/what-are-the-side-effects-of-aspartame-stevia-and-other-sugar-substitutes

Contributors: Kim Farmer and Michelle Beachem of Mile High Fitness Mile High Fitness offers in-home personal training and corporate fitness solutions.  Visit www.milehighfitness.com or email inquires@milehighfitness.com

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