The Scary Truth About Your Favorite Sugar Substitutes – Get The Facts!

After decades of being told to avoid fats and go for sugar-filled alternatives that were “fat free”, the world of nutrition and medicine has finally realized and agreed that, well, we couldn’t have been more wrong. But, with that newfound acceptance that sugar is bad and fat is good, (although it is, of course, a lot more complicated than that!), people have become confused, or misinterpreted healthy alternatives, as a result. The truth is, yes, there are substitutes and alternatives that are far better options than refined sugar, but, they are not harmless, free-for-all options, and there are some important points to keep in mind when choosing your food and ingredients.

 Is your favorite sugar substitute really any better for you than sugar

What’s wrong with sugar?

The problem with sugar doesn’t lie with the teaspoon you add to your coffee or homemade snacks alone – the real problem is the amount of sugar you are consuming in total, often without realizing it. Unthinkable amounts of sugar are added to everything, from pre-made meals, sauces and marinades to breakfast cereals, supermarket breads, packaged cakes and sweets, as well as, of course, take-out, and even restaurant food. As a result of all the unknown sugar we take in on a daily basis, our modern day western diets are far too high in sugar, which has led to a huge increase in diseases and conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And with the increased amount of sugar we unintentionally consume, it is important to therefore be aware of the sugar we use at home, along with, of course, limiting the amount of take-out, ready meals and packaged cookies we eat!

What about my favorite sugar substitutes?

Once all this new knowledge came out about the harm sugar can do in large amounts, from contributing to obesity, diabetes and liver disease to causing insulin resistance, tooth decay and decreasing metabolism, people did start opting for substitutes and natural sweeteners as an alternative. While that can be a great idea, there is still a lot of misinformation floating about in relation to how much sugar you still might be consuming, depending on your choices of sweeteners. Some people took these substitutes as a free-for-all, but they definitely are not! It’s important to understand what your favorite sugar substitutes are actually made up of, and what role they play when they make their way into your system.

Sugar free

Here is a compilation of some of the most popular natural substitutes for refined sugar, and information about their nutritional value, to help you better understand what it is you’re actually putting into your coffee, cereal and home baked goods, and whether you are choosing the best option for your health…

Agave Nectar (per 100g)

Calories – 286

Total fat – 0g

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 0mg

Total carbohydrates – 76g (25%)

Dietary Fiber – 5g

Sugars – 71g

Protein – 0g

Vitamin A – 0%

Vitamin C – 0%

Calcium – 0%

Iron – 0%

Avage nectar

Agave is a plant traditionally used to make tequila. It is extremely sweet and became a very popular sugar alternative in recent years around the western world. To make the commercial nectar that you find in supermarkets, several types of the plant are blended together to create a sweet liquid. It has more calories than sugar, but is sweeter, meaning you don’t need as much of it to achieve the desired sweetness. Agave is marketed as a “healthy” alternative to sugar because it is low in glucose, meaning it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels as much as other sweeteners. That means it has a low glycemic index and is said to be diabetic-friendly.

However, agave is very high in fructose, which, in our modern western diets, that are generally high-carb and high-calorie, can be a serious problem. Glucose can be metabolized by every cell in the human body, and every living thing on the planet has glucose in it. Fructose, on the other hand, can only be metabolized in significant amounts by the liver, meaning when it gets overloaded, it turns the fructose into fat. That is then transported as VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), which is made up of cholesterol, triglycerides and protein.

The verdict… agave nectar is not the best substitute for refined sugar because of its high fructose content. It can be used in small amounts, but think of it in the same way as you do sugar, and minimize your intake!

Honey (per 100g)

Calories – 304

Total fat – 0g

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 4mg

Total carbohydrates – 82g (27%)

Dietary Fiber – 0g

Sugars – 82g

Protein – 0g

Vitamin A – 0%

Vitamin C – 0%

Calcium – 1%

Iron – 2%

Honey

Honey has always seemed quite irresistible, ever since Winnie the Pooh started appearing with buckets and beehives of it on our television screens as children. It has been a staple throughout human evolution and used to treat a number of conditions since ancient times. The beautiful golden substance created by honey bees has been used by grandmothers and mothers to soothe sore throats and help medicine go down for generations, and in the late 19th century, scientists confirmed that honey did, in fact, have natural antibacterial qualities. It is one of the first sugar substitutes that people started using, before all the new science on the effects of refined sugar was even released. People added it to porridge, yoghurt, banana smoothies and stir fries instead of sugar, and even in some old bread and cake recipes.

There was also a very promising theory floating about for a while that people with pollen allergies could relieve their symptoms by eating local honey. However, although it was a nice thought and seemed to make sense, it was proven wrong, because springtime allergies are caused by pollen from non-flowering trees, weeds and grass that gets blown around by the wind, whereas bees collect pollen from flowers.



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