Sugar and obesity are the two most commonly linked words presently. Blamed for promoting diseases such as diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, cavities, systemic inflammation, high insulin levels and cancer, the world is feverishly searching for a healthy sugar substitute that can grant your wish of eating your favorite pastry but staying fit without increased insulin levels.
There are four major categories of sugar substitutes, each group having its own set of pros and cons:
These are quoted to be the best replacement for sugar as they are derived from natural sources that may contain strains of vitamins and minerals. Honey, agave nectar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, coconut sugar and fruit juices are the most popular natural sweeteners. These contain glucose and fructose that contribute to calorie addition (15-20 calories per teaspoon), increased blood sugar levels and tooth decay. Natural sweeteners are best suitable for baking, sweetening beverages (tea, coffee) and can be used as food toppings too.
Also known as synthetic sugar substitutes, some of the artificial sweeteners are derived from natural substances (herbs and sugar) while most are chemical substances made in a lab. Sweeter than sugar, very less quantity of these sweeteners is sufficient to add sweetness. As these contain few or no calories, artificial sweeteners are promoted for having weight-loss benefits, prevent tooth decay and prevent raising blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. Sadly, a number of side effects have been reported after using these sweeteners and theories exist promoting their risk of causing cancer. To know the list of universally used artificial sweeteners, please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
Sugar alcohols are mostly polyols which are a type of carbohydrate found in fruits and vegetables while some others are synthetic. The association to alcohol ends with the name and there is no alcohol in sugar alcohol. These do contain calories, but lesser than sugar and are also less sweet than sugar. Certain carbohydrates in sugar alcohol are not absorbed and hence, there is less spike in blood sugar levels when these are consumed. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol predominantly present in chewing gums and sugar-free candies. Eating too much of these sweeteners can result in bloating, gas and diarrhoea.
These are a combination of numerous sweeteners. These cannot be contained in a single category because of what they’re made from and how they’re made. Stevia is the most popular novel sweetener while tagatose and trehalose are other novel sweeteners. While trehalose is found commonly in honey and mushroom, tagatose occurs naturally and is also found in lactose in dairy products.
In a Nutshell
Since sugars can lead to a plethora of problems, sugar substitutes seem to be reasonable alternatives as they minimize calories and insulin levels. Although natural sweeteners might seem ok as they come from real foods instead of being synthetically made, one must be cautious while consuming any type of sweetener as they can affect good health and sometimes, might lead to weight gain too.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.