Sugar by any other name…
I often get questions about the different natural sugar alternative available. This post aims to highlight some of the key information about some of the most popular sugar alternatives.
Stevia – Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni is a perennial herb with high content of natural sweetness occurring in its leaves .
Glycemic Index – 0
Pros – Sustainable plant. Safe for diabetics because of 0 glycemic index. Long history of use in whole leaf form as a sweetner with no side effects.
Cons – Many find that it has unpleasant aftertaste. Some extracts can be highly processed making them no better then regular sugar.
Xylitol – Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar alcohol, it can be found in nature in small quantities, in fruits and vegetables.
Glycemic Index – 7
Pros – Prevention of dental caries. Reduction of middle ear infections in children. Low glycemic index making it a good choice for diabetics.
Cons – Mild laxative effect in some individuals. Not tolerated by animals, unsafe for pets. Since it is found in fruit and vegetables there are some sources that are derived from corn, which happens to be one of the most genetically modified plants. A better choice would be xylitol derived from birch trees.
Agave Nectar – Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave, including Agave tequilana (blue agave) and (Agave salmiana).
Glycemic Index – 54
Pros – Vegan option. Sweeter then sugar so you need a smaller quantity.
Cons – High in fructose, so it metabolized by the liver, and excesses can be formed into triglycerides. In a study looking at the antioxidant levels of sugar alterative agave ranked similar to white sugar and corn syrup.
Maple Syrup – Maple syrup is produced from the clear sap of the tree, which is boiled and concentrated to yield what is sold as maple syrup. Maple syrup contains approximately 67% solids, mostly sugars, but also minerals and some vitamins, including notable amounts of calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and thiamin
Glycemic Index – 55
Pros – Considered a nutritive sweetener. Sustainable product.
Cons – Higher glycemic index.
Honey – Honey is a sugar-rich liquid produced by bees from the nectar of flowers that is partially digested and then regurgitated into the hive and stored in the honeycomb, where evaporation of water concentrates the sugars.
Glycemic Index – 62
Pros – Possess antimicrobial, antiviral, antiparasitory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects. Sustainable source. Honey has shown to be as effective as dextromethorphan for cough suppression. *These effects are specific to unpasteurized honey*
Cons – Unsafe for infants under one year do to possibility of botulism toxin. Sensitivities to plant pollen may result in allergy symptoms when consuming honey.
White Sugar – Granulated sugar is beet or cane sugar which has been processed, allowed to crystallize, and then dried so that the crystals do not clump together.
Glycemic Index – 68
Pros – Sugar directly breaks down to glucose which is the energy source for our cells.
Cons – Sugar cane and sugar beets are one of the most genetically modified organisms. There are many health conditions that are either aggrevated by or develop from excess sugar including: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, ADHD, poor immune function ect.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – HFCS comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness.
Glycemic Index – 100
Pros – Cheap manufacturing practices, make it readily available.
Cons – Higher amounts of fructose contributes to productions of triglycerides. Genetically modified source. Damages intestinal lining and can contribute to gut inflammation resulting imbalance of gut bacteria.
Glucose – It is one of the three dietary monosaccharides, along with fructose and galactose, that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. An important carbohydrate in biology, cells use it as the primary source of energy and a metabolic intermediate.
Glycemic Index – 100
Take home message – Sugar may taste sweet but remember moderation is key. Remember that a whole foods diet which incorporates foods in there natural form, without the addition of sugar (natural or not) will be supportive for health.
Glycemic index -(GI) provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels (i.e. levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food. The lower the value the smaller effect on blood sugar.This post aims to provide background on these natural sugar alternatives, if you choose to use any of the these alternatives remember to consider purchasing from a reputable source.