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Sugar Alternatives – Are They Truly Good For You?

sugar free

Do you have a sweet tooth and an uncontrollable craving for sugar? Don’t worry – you’re not the only one. Sugar is undoubtedly a controversial ingredient in the modern diet. The natural sugar found in clean, wholesome foods is good for your body and overall well-being, however, processed or added sugar is one of the main culprits of numerous health issues. Giving up the latter is the first step in the journey to good health. Focusing on natural sugar alternatives is a step towards a healthy eating lifestyle. 

In the following article, we’ve gathered valuable information about sugar and its impact on your diet and overall health. We’ll also provide various alternatives which you can easily implement in your diet.

Negative effects of sugar on the body

Sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, flavoured dairy products, and even savoury foods like bread are the main culprits of sugar overconsumption. It is easy to end up with a surplus of sugar without even knowing it. This is a premise of serious health problems or the exacerbation of existing ones such as:

  • Tooth decay and cavities;
  • Obesity and type 2 diabetes;
  • High blood pressure and coronary disease;
  • Mental health changes;
  • Ageing.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to satisfy your sweet tooth and be healthy.

Types of sugar alternatives

Natural sugar substitutes

Every year, more people become more educated and aware of the negative effects of sugar consumption. Thus, the number of people searching for a healthy solution grows. The good news is there are various natural sugar alternatives that can be easily substituted for your baking and cooking. Check below the top 7 natural substitutes when you want to satisfy your sweet cravings:

 

  • Raw honey 
raw honey - sugar alternative

What better way to sweeten your life than honey? It the nutritional powerhouse when it comes to sugar alternatives. Raw honey contains royal jelly, beeswax, and propolis which is popular for its anti-cancer properties as well as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects. Amino acids, enzymes, and micronutrients are also found in raw honey. It is truly a superfood and one of the best natural sweeteners. Remember, the darker the honey, the more robust flavour it has and the greater the nutrition properties, so choose wisely! Who’s up for some pancakes? Yum!

coconut sugar - sugar alternative

Most people have heard about the benefits of coconut water, coconut milk, coconut flour and fresh coconut. Now, more and more people are using coconut sugar as their natural sweetener of choice because of its light, toffee-like flavour and because it is rich in minerals and amino acids. Coconut sugar is a sweet and healthy sugar alternative, and it can be implemented easily in culinary. You can find this sugar alternative and how to add it to your diet on our website!

agave - sugar alternative

Yet another amazing natural sweetener!  This sweetener is especially popular in vegan cuisine as a substitute for honey. Dating back to the Aztecs, agave nectar is used as food and remedy. Today, this delicious syrup is mainly produced in Mexico from a Blue Agave cactus plant. It can be used in beverages and various recipes. Agave syrup is a preferred sugar alternative because of its rich flavour and low glycemic index (GI). However, keep in mind that the nectar is sweeter than sugar and has high fructose levels, so always consume with care!

muscovado sugar alternative

Muscovado is a type of partially refined to unrefined sugar with a robust molasses content and flavour. What happens when you boil down sugarcane or sugar beet juice? You get molasses! It has a strong, full-bodied essence which gives natural caramel colour when baking. Unlike processed sugar, muscovado sugar is rich in vitamins and other micronutrients. It is a healthy alternative that can find a place in various baking recipes. Muscovado sugar can also be used in sauces, marinades and even cocktails. At Smart Organic you can find this sugar alternative as well as many others. 

Besides being incredibly delicious and all-natural, maple syrup contains antioxidants and nutrients like potassium, manganese, and iron. It’s a safe choice for diabetics because of its low glycemic index score and can also reduce inflammation in the body. It is endlessly versatile in being a sugar substitute in baking, savoury dishes, sauces and marinades. Pancakes with berries and maple syrup are a classic, after all. Also, it is a great addition to a delicious vanilla latté!

dates

Dates are rich in fibre, minerals, and vitamins, so using them as a natural sweetener can add more nutritional value to your diet and prevent health issues. Dates can help reduce “bad” cholesterol in the blood and lower the risk of a heart attack. They are easy to acquire, inexpensive, and can be used in various recipes. Blended dates act as a binder for homemade cookies, raw vegan brownies, and are an ideal ingredient for delicious smoothies. Moreover, date syrup can add a tasty caramel flavour to your morning coffee. After all, we all need sweetness in our life, right?

  • Monk fruit
monk fruit

Monk fruit has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for decades, but it’s use as a natural sweetener is becoming more popular by the hour. Monk fruit extract is 150-250 times sweeter than table sugar and holds zero calories or carbs, which makes it an ideal choice for those who want to lose weight. It can be found in granulated and liquid form, and is used in numerous recipes. You might find that monk fruit is pricier than other sweeteners. This is because of the long and challenging growth and cultivation process. However, if your budget allows it, monk fruit is an excellent sugar substitute, with numerous health benefits. 

Visit our website to browse other products we offer and see our interesting and healthy recipes which include them. You can purchase online easily and if you have any questions – feel free to contact us!

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial or nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) become more popular by the hour as an alternative to sugar. Increased cases of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, joined with heightened consumer awareness, have led to a steady shift toward the use of low-calorie sweeteners. They provide an intensely sweet taste and little-to-no calories per gram. The US – FDA authority has approved 6 artificial sweeteners – saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame-K, and stevia. NNS are commonly used in processed foods such as:

  • Soft drinks;
  • Baked goods;
  • Candy;
  • Puddings;
  • Canned foods;
  • Jams and jellies;
  • Dairy products.

There are indications that NNS suppresses hunger and appetite, leading to a beneficial effect on weight and cardiovascular profile. 

Novel sweeteners

Novel sweeteners

Novel sweeteners are hard to fit into a special category because of what their origin is and how they are made. Let’s take stevia as an example. The FDA has approved only highly refined stevia mixtures as novel sweeteners but hasn’t approved whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts for this particular use. This sugar substitute has little-to-no calories and has more intense sweetness than sugar, so you need to be careful with the amount you consume. Since stevia extract is very low in calories and has a low GI, it is considered an excellent sugar alternative for those who have diabetes or need to control their weight.

Sugar alcohols

In case you were wondering – no, they are not alcoholic beverages, although it would be fun, right? Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables – although they can also be commercially produced. These sugar substitutes don’t have intense sweetness, and chances are you won’t find them palatine pleasing. If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth it’s best to combine them with other sugar alternatives which will enhance the flavour qualities. 

One of the commonly used sugar alcohols is Xylitol. It is a low-calorie alternative that doesn’t cause tooth decay or a sudden increase in blood sugar, which makes it a good option for people with diabetes. Keep in mind, Xylitol may have a laxative effect when consumed in large amounts. You can easily find it in chewing gum. It can also be found in the form of sugar-free candies, jams or jellies, baked goods, and frozen yoghurt. Xylitol comes in granulated form, making it easy to use as a replacement for sugar when having drinks, fruit, or cereal. 

Another natural sugar alcohol in this group is Erythritol. Erythritol has the lowest calorie content of any sugar alcohol averaging between 0-0.2 kilocalories per gram (kcal/g). This measure means it could serve as a beneficial alternative for sugar in a calorie-controlled diet.

You can find the mentioned above sugar alcohols as well as other sweeteners on our website.

Health benefits of sugar alternative

Health benefits

To fight obesity and assist in weight loss

Most people choose to limit their calorie intake by replacing high energy sugar or corn syrup with sugar alternatives that have no or very few calories. This allows them to eat the same foods they normally would while helping them lose weight and avoid the occurrence of health issues associated with excessive sugar intake. Combined with physical exercises, sugar alternatives have a proven effect on weight loss. 

Improved dental care

Sugary foods, drinks, bread, flavoured yoghurt, candy and more are a culprit for dental cavities and tooth decay. Unlike sugar, its alternatives are not fermented by the microflora of the dental plaque, thus proving not harmful to your health. Proper oral hygiene is important and sugar alternatives are a way of achieving it. 

Diabetes mellitus

People with diabetes have it tough when it comes to regulating their blood sugar levels. As mentioned above, sugar can be found in various products. Identifying and limiting their use can be a hassle. Substituting sugar with natural or artificial sweeteners allows consumers to enjoy a varied diet, without stress and guilt. 

Reactive hypoglycemia

People with reactive hypoglycemia produce an excess of insulin after quickly absorbing glucose into their bloodstream. This causes their blood glucose levels to fall below the amount needed for normal function. This can be hard to live with, and it can take a toll on the quality of life. This is why, like diabetics, such individuals must avoid intake of high-glycemic sugary foods, and use substitute sweeteners instead.

Sugar alternatives – why moderation is key

Finding proper sugar substitutes that are suitable for your condition and taste can help you reduce your sugar consumption drastically. However, sugar alternatives are not a magic wand you can wave and make your health problems simply disappear. Substitutes should always be used after careful consideration and in moderation.

Although they have been marketed as healthy alternatives, studies have not yet found links between sugar alternatives and long-term improvements in regards to your calorie intake or risk of diabetes type 2 or obesity. In fact, they may lead to an intense craving for sweets and sugary foods. Some studies have even associated sugar substitutes with a higher risk of glucose intolerance or weight gain. Their use should be accompanied with caution in certain high-risk groups such as pregnant and lactating women, diabetics, individuals with migraine and epilepsy, as well as children.

 

While sugar alternatives may be significantly lower in calories than table sugar, remember to limit your consumption, as they can have health consequences as well. Moderation is key! We recommend you discuss using sugar alternatives with your physician.

Conclusion

When it comes to sweetening everything from coffee to baked goods, sugar isn’t the only game in town. There are lots of sugar alternatives with fewer calories and a lower risk of health issues. That being said, the keyword here is alternatives, meaning they should be used instead of refined, added sugar – and in moderation. Combined with low-sugar income and physical exercises, alternative sweeteners prove to be beneficial for overall health. 

We hope this article was interesting and informative for you! If any questions pop up, feel free to share them in the comment section! 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198517/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-sugar-substitutes#The-bottom-line

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