Curiously Crunchy

Asking crunchy questions for my family and yours.

Alternative Sweeteners

on May 22, 2015

(Let me preface this with the statement that I am not a doctor, nor am I a medical professional of any kind. I am just a woman who gets super nosey about what I’m putting in my body and I would like to share a small portion of my research on sweeteners with you below.)

We all know that too much sugar is bad for us, but if you’re like me you can’t drink coffee or tea without a sweetener.

We also all know that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin are full of unnecessary chemicals and garbage that can cause cancer and migraines and all kind of terrible things.

So what’s a girl to use? I’m going to go in to some of the different kinds of sweeteners and which one is my favorite.

First we have Table Sugar

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Usually obtained from Sugar Cane or Sugar Beet, it is processed by crushing and extracting sugarcane or sugar beet with water, evaporating, and purifying with lime, carbon, and various liquids. (From PubChem.)

Traditional table sugar is incredibly refined and any of the beneficial trace nutrients are taken out, leaving it devoid of anything but empty calories.

If used moderately, this sweetener really isn’t so bad, in my opinion, BUT it’s in so much of what we eat already without even realizing, it is rarely my sweetener of choice (except for baking). And when I do use it, I use Sugar In The Raw.

They don’t do the extra refining to get it white (although they do offer a white sugar).

Next up, Agave Syrup

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Agave syrup (or agave nectar) is from the Agave Americana and Agave Tequilana plants. The leaves are cut off the plant after it has aged seven to fourteen years and the juice is then extracted from the core of the agave, called the piña. The juice is filtered, then heated, to break the complex components (the polysaccharides) into simple sugars. This filtered juice is then concentrated to a syrupy liquid, slightly thinner than honey. Its color varies from light- to dark-amber, depending on the degree of processing. The main sweetening agent (called inulin or fructosan) is mostly fructose.

According to Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt (a member of the American College of Nutrition and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) “Agave syrup is almost all fructose, highly processed sugar with great marketing. Fructose interferes with healthy metabolism when (consumed) at higher doses. Many people have fructose intolerance like lactose intolerance. They get acne or worse diabetes symptoms even though their blood [sugar] is OK”. (from the Huffington Post)

This is one of my least favorite options because of the fructose content. If I’m going to consume a sweet syrup, I’m going to go for raw honey. I personally prefer the taste and I don’t need the extra fructose (we’re already getting plenty with HFC in practically everything).

Raw Honey

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Honey is a great food to have around for a number reasons. Although its sweetness comes from mainly fructose and glucose, its other properties make it worth keeping around.

“The support for using honey as a treatment regimen for peptic ulcers and gastritis comes from traditional folklore as well as from reports in modern times. Honey may promote the repair of damaged intestinal mucosa, stimulate the growth of new tissues and work as an anti-inflammatory agent. Raw honey contains copious amounts of compounds such as flavonoids and other polyphenols which may function as antioxidants. Clinical observations have been reported of reduced symptoms of inflammation when honey is applied to wounds. The removal of exudate in wounds dressed with honey is of help in managing inflamed wounds.” (from PubMed)

Wholesome Sweeteners is my favorite, and I even use it to wash my face!

Please note that because honey contains contains small amounts of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, vitamins, aroma compounds and polyphenols, the medical community agrees honey should NOT be given to children under 2.

Stevia – My Favorite 

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My favorite sweetener that I use daily is Stevia. I prefer the taste of Stevia In The Raw, although Wholesome Sweeteners is a close second. I also really like Wholesome Sweeteners because they are Non-GMO Verified and Fair Trade Certified, which the In The Raw brand is not.

Stevia has been found to increase insulin sensitivity and to have beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin levels. According to a National Institute of Health study (found here), stevia had significantly less impact on insulin and blood glucose levels than glucose and aspartame.

Although maltodextrine is listed as an ingredient on the Stevia In The Raw packages, the National Institute of Health says “meals, consumed as either dextrose or maltodextrin, pose little postprandial oxidative insult to young, healthy men. As such, there should be minimal concern over such feedings, even at high dosages, assuming adequate glucose metabolism”, which I interpret to mean that as long as you are pretty healthy overall, it isn’t going to affect you much, especially because I don’t need very much to get my desired sweetness. Its inclusion doesn’t bother me at all, but use your own judgment on what’s best for you and your family.

There is SO MUCH information out there about different sweeteners and the effect they have on our bodies. I encourage you to do your own research and find what works best for you and your family.

Are you loyal to one particular sweetener or brand of sweeteners?

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