I have been doing a lot of research on sugar substitutes, because there are many substitutes out there. There are also many reasons why you’d try eat less sugar with health benefits that can be short-term and long-term.
Sugar substitutes are additives which provide the similar sugar taste to normal sugar, but usually with less or even no effective calories (zero calories that you see in some products). We’ll look at the artificial and natural sweeteners.
The problem with trying to avoid sugar is that it is a lot of the food and drinks that we consume, but we don’t take any note of it because of main ingredients of what we’re consuming. For example, many fruit juices sold in the shops actually have a lot of sugar and calories, but because they are fruit juices. People think that they have less chance of gaining fat drinking them rather than a coke, but the chances they are actually just as high due to the sugar and calorie content.
If you’re looking to lose fat you have to eat less calories than you consume no matter what you’re eating. The difference is that a fruit juice is probably more nutritious than a coke with the fruits infused in it.
I looked at how natural these sugar substitutes are, if they are high or low in calories and if it’s a good idea to continue with them if you’re looking to reduce your sugar and calorie intake and their benefits if they have any.
A List of Sugar Substitutes
I have listed the ones which I’ve done research on and that are common today in the shops. These are options you should look out for these days that you can use to your advantage or avoid.
Honey is the first sugar substitute I am sure many of us have seen as many recipes out there use it and it’s natural. It contains quite a lot of sugar and calories, the effects dependent on how much you use. It tends to be sweeter than normal sugar I feel, this also depends on the quality and type. The great qualities that honey are that it is high in antioxidants and can act as an anti-inflammatory. Since honey is generally sweeter, you’d require less which offsets the fact that it is higher in calories than refined sugar.
Stevia is a sweetener that is made from Stevia rebaudiana, a plant native to South America. It’s naturally occurring, so I’d say it is a natural sweetener, but there are sources that say otherwise. It is a healthy and low calorie option when made naturally. In stores, it is usually refined or mixed with other sweeteners that would give it a different look and taste. It is naturally green though, low in calories and apparently 300 times sweeter than normal sugar.
Maple Syrup (Natural)
Maple syrup is extracted from maple trees, relatively high in calories and sugar content. The fact that it is natural, does not mean it won’t add fat when you have too much. Like honey, it also has antioxidants and minerals, if not processed. It is better than refined sugar in terms of its blood sugar effects and the nutrients mentioned above. I’ve never bought maple syrup, because it is usually expensive and I don’t really eat syrup.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol or polyol, which is what you find in many protein bars. It is extracted from corn. It has a similar taste to normal sugar, but has less calories than normal sugar. As an artificial sweetener, there are studies that make it questionable in the long run. It keeps blood sugar normal and it does not increase insulin levels.
Another polyol that can be used in the making of protein bars, but is more expensive in producing, also extracted from corn. It has fewer calories than Xylitol, but it actually taste more like normal sugar than other sweeteners. Most of it goes straight into your bloodstream unchanged since the body doesn’t digest it. Many studies state that it doesn’t have common side effects and doesn’t negatively affect blood sugar.
The Problem With Sugar
There are many issues that come with eating sugar, but the one thing that makes it great is its taste benefits. The problem with most sugar is that it:
- Adds calories that can be unnecessary in achieving your calorie goals.
- It adds sugar content to your diet (glucose, fructose etc.) which will be stored as fat if not burned through exercise.
- It increases your blood sugar levels which can lead to diabetes, heart conditions etc.
Are Sugar Substitutes Good for You?
We do not live life to restrict ourselves from things that we may enjoy. Sugar tastes good, but it is important that with everything that you consume, you do it in moderation. Natural sweeteners are more nutritious than refined sugar, but high in calories and sugar too. Artificial sweeteners help you with eating less calories, but be aware of the unknown with artificial products. I’d advise that you eat the less processed sugar to be on the healthier and more nutritious side.
Do you have a favorite sugar substitute, let me know in the comments?