Sometimes, sweetness is the key to a happy meal or treat. While there is nothing wrong with the occasional sweet treat, refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup can lead to health problems, including addiction.
Diets high in added sugar have a strong connection to health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and fatty liver disease. Therefore, while sweets are delicious, it is essential to consider the type of sweetener you use.
While the occasional sweet with refined sugar or HFCS is OK, limiting your total sugar intake is best. To reduce your dependence on refined sugars or HFCS, you can look to healthier sugar alternatives.
Derived from the Stevie rebaudiana shrub in South America, stevia is a plant-based sweetener. The sweetener comes from two glycosides: rebaudioside and stevioside. The compounds are 450 times sweeter than white sugar and contain zero calories.
While stevia can reduce blood sugar levels and prevent weight gain, some users do not like the taste compared to refined sugar. Additionally, some studies suggest the sugar alternative can harm the gut microbiome; although, further study is needed.
2. Monk Fruit Sweetener
Native to China and obtained from the Siraitia grosvenorii plant, monk fruit extract is 300 times sweeter than white sugar and contains zero calories. The sweetness is the result of mogrosides, primarily mogroside V.
The two primary benefits of monk fruit as a sweetener are the lack of calories and its effect on blood sugar. When used to replace table sugar, the sweetener can promote weight loss and improve blood sugar counts.
Produced by honeybees, honey is a thick, sweet liquid that contains various minerals, vitamins, and plant compounds. While the plant compounds vary based on the bees and flowers used to produce the final product, honey does offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
However, despite honey being somewhat healthier than refined sugar, it still contains high calories and sugar levels. Therefore, it is best to consume honey in moderation.
4. Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, maltitol, and xylitol, are natural carbohydrates of vegetables and fruits. Because the mouth's bacteria don't lead to fermentation, this alternative will not damage the teeth like refined sugar.
Additionally, like some other sugar alternatives, sugar alcohols do not have a tremendous number of calories and will not affect blood sugar levels. However, some sugar alcohols can cause an upset stomach or trigger a laxative effect.
Existing in specific fruits, allulose is sugar or monosaccharide that contains only 0.2 calories per gram and is 70% as sweet as table sugar. Most people who use the alternative sugar comment that it tastes the most like white sugar.
Some research suggests Allulose can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. However, the substitute should only be used in moderation to reduce the potential adverse effects:
While this is not an exhaustive list of the available sugar alternatives, it is a fair overview of some better options. Optimally, you will want to curb your sugar intake, favoring a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and lean protein.
What is your favorite sugar alternative? Comment below.