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Your Guide to Sugar Substitutes

eat less sugar
Sugar, the sweet stuff. I have an affinity for all things sweet, I remember when I was a wee one and Halloween rolled around the corner, it wasn’t unusual for me to have all my sweet treasures consumed within a matter of days! Boy did I get in trouble!! Humans evolved to have a sweet tooth. Back in the day, and by back in day I mean during evolutionary times, having a sweet tooth was our body’s way of making us forage for food as a way to gain simple readily available calories when steady food sources we’re rare. Today however, where food is abundant, having a sweet tooth is no longer an evolutionary need yet we still have a “sweet sensor”.

Added sugar is found in a lot of packaged foods therefore many people may find it difficult in keeping their sugar consumption within reasonable levels because it is hard to avoid. Over consumption of sugar can lead to metabolic diseases and can cause inflammation in the body, therefore it is best to keep sugar at a minimum.

Getting to know the sources of sugar available will help you make informed choices about sugar consumption.

Natural Sugars

Fruits. Called nature’s candy, fruit has naturally occurring sugar in the form of fructose. As fruits ripen, their natural sugar content increases. Fruit is a great source if you are looking for something sweet and it has the added benefit of fibre. Not all fruit is created equal in regards to sugar content so please consult a dietitian or nutritionist to see what fruits best suit your diet.

Refined Sugars

Refined sugars are made by processing other foods to create sugar, the most common one is white sugar typically made from sugarcane or sugar beets.

Refined sugars have many names, some of which are uncommon, look out for the following on ingredient lists: white sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, fruit juice concentrates, corn syrup, malt sugar, molasses, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, glucose etc.

Sugar Substitutes

There are many out there! Some common ones you may know are Aspartame, Splenda, Saccharin (Sweet’N low) etc. There is a debate as to whether these types are harmful to your health or not, therefore I’d like to share my picks for sugar alternatives that I find are safer for consumption.

Stevia: Stevia is a sweetener that comes from an herb. It is considered non-nutritive, meaning that it adds zero calories to your diet. Stevia is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar; this means that just a tiny amount of stevia can go a long way in sweetening foods, for example 1 teaspoon of stevia equals 1 cup of sugar in terms of sweetness!

Erythritol: Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, sugar alcohols do not get digested by the body like white sugar does, they actually pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed. Erythritol is about 60 to 80 percent as sweet as regular sugar, calorie-wise it has about zero to 0.2 calories per gram, while sugar has four calories per gram. Since erythritol is a sugar alcohol it may cause digestive issues, take in small amounts.

Xylitol: Xylitol is another form of sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and extracted from corn or birch wood to make a sweetener that is similar in taste to sugar but with about 40% fewer calories. Even though xylitol is extracted from natural sources, it goes through a process called sugar hydrogenation to become a shelf stable white powder for food and dental use. Be sure to keep xylitol away from your furry friends as it can be lethal. Again, since xylitol is a sugar alcohol it may cause digestive issues, take in small amounts.

Monk Fruit: Monk fruit extract can taste up to 250 times sweeter than standard table sugar due to chemical compounds called mogrosides, which give the fruit its distinctive sweetness. Monk fruit extract comes from monk fruit, or luo han guo, a melon-like fruit that grows on a vine and is native to parts of China and Thailand. The sweetener is made by juicing the fruit and processing it into crystal form.

The nice things about the above-mentioned sugar substitutes are that they can be used in baking! So, when you’re craving something sweet try one of the above as they are more kind to your body, if you are looking for a sweet pop type beverage, I would recommend Zevia, it comes in many flavors and is made with Stevia. There’s nothing wrong with indulging every so often, as long as it’s every so often, moderation is key!

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only, it is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any illness or disease. Please consult a professional for your healthcare needs.

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