Food For Thought
The bitter truth about sweeteners
By: Leanne Ely
It seems like folks are spending a lot of energy on trying to find the best sweeteners on the go. The additive for our drinks and baked goods that will sweeten things up without negatively affecting our health.
There’s so much information and misinformation out there that you’re likely having a tough time figuring out which item on the shelves of the sugar aisle to reach for.
But before I break things down a little bit for you, I want to ask you something…
Why are you looking for ways to maintain your current level of eating sweet?
Shouldn’t we instead be trying to get to the point where we’re not craving sugar at all?
I mean, haven’t we baked enough? Do any of us really need another muffin made with gluten-free flour and sweetened with sugar substitute? Will that muffin lead us to the health we want or will it just slightly lessen the onslaught of inflammation we’d get from eating the “real” deal?
The truth is, the nutrition in baked goods is zero. Maybe even negative zero. There’s really not a single redeeming quality in your muffin. Sad, I know.
Now, if you really feel you need to have something sweet, here’s some information to ponder:
Agave nectar. Agave nectar comes from the blue agave plants that grow down in Mexico. In North America, agave nectar started being touted as a clean, natural sweetener a few years back but really, it’s about as healthy as high fructose corn syrup is. In some cases, depending on how it’s been processed, it’s actually worse than HFCS. Most of the agave nectar we see in stores is basically very condensed fructose syrup made in a lab and stripped of all its nutrients. Does agave nectar have a low glycemic index? Yes. So does windshield washer fluid but that doesn’t mean you should eat it.
Aspartame. Recent studies (here’s a link to over 60 studies including the one referenced in this post. http://aspartame.mercola.com/sites/aspartame/studies.aspx) show that this chemical sweetener can actually cause weight gain and worsen insulin sensitivity. The human body doesn’t know what to do with things that are ingested that simply are not food.
Splenda/Sucralose. In a study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health sucralose was linked to weight gain and the reduction of good bacteria in your gut by up to 50%! I don’t know about you, but I need all the healthy flora I can get in my gut.
There are only two sugar substitutes that are safe to consume, and those are xylitol and stevia and even then you have to go easy on them.
Xylitol. This natural sweetener comes from birch trees. It’s a sugar alcohol. Coming from nature, xylitol is safe to consume but you know what they say about beans? Same thing goes for xylitol. The more you eat the more you toot-seriously, you could have a nightmare problem on your hand if you don’t go easy!
Stevia. Stevia is an herb that comes from South America from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant, making it a relative of the Chrysanthanthemum. As far as natural sweeteners go, this one is safe to consume, but in my view, the taste is rather off putting and tastes a lot like an artificial sweetener (my opinion folks, that’s just my opinion!).
Then there’s honey and maple syrup.
Honey will be featured in tomorrow’s Tips, Tricks, and a Recipe so be sure to check back and learn about why it’s so good for you. If you have to sweeten something, try doing it with honey, but make it local honey, raw and just little tiny bit!
Maple syrup has a higher concentration of minerals and nutrients than honey does and it also has fewer calories. It also is natural and safe to eat. BUT (and that’s a big but) this does not mean pancake syrup. There’s a huge difference between maple syrup and that other stuff that a lot of kids sadly grow up believing is maple syrup. Read the ingredients on a bottle of “maple flavored pancake syrup” and it will scare you! Maple syrup is expensive, but you use such a little bit, it’s worth the expense. One way to lessen the “free pour” your kids will certain do if given a pitcher at the table, is to give them each a little ramekin of their own maple syrup to dip their pancakes in, that works beautifully. You can also whip butter with real maple syrup and do it that way. You like that, don’t you? You’re welcome.
Bottom line? We all love sweet, but we don’t need it and we need a little retraining of our taste buds. I promise you, it can happen. I did it myself; plain Greek yogurt tastes sweet to me now! What do you think?