Which kind of sweeteners really are healthy??
The Sugar Puzzle
by Chaya Rivka Zwolinski adapted from www.healthyjewishcooking.com
Though there is disagreement whether or not sugar causes diabetes, natural nutrition consultants, holistic doctors and a growing cadre of scientists say that over-consumption of sugars and other carbohydrates leads to pre-diabetes (also called impaired glucose tolerance or hypoglycemia).
Many believe no sugar is good sugar and that there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to sugar. I can't say that they aren't technically correct, but I do know that the total sugar-is-poison approach might negatively impact a person's family and social life.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to solving the sugar puzzle. Many people crave sweets. Our love of sweets is partly nurture, partly nature. If you give an infant a choice between a sweet flavor or another flavor, she'll choose the sweet taste every time.
But nurture is important, too. Some cultures don't have a culinary history of serving desserts or sweets (Japan, for one). And of course, what works for one individual might not work for another.
If you are in good health, you might want to examine how much sugar you are eating and see if you can cut back. If you buy processed foods, read the label. Avoid ingredients ending in "ose" or "ol" or contain the word sugar or syrup.
If you (G-d forbid), are pre-diabetic, diabetic, more than a little overweight, have cholesterol/triglyceride issues, blood pressure issues, heart problems, cancer, IBS, Crohns, Celiac Sprue, kidney, liver, or bladder problems, candida, nail or skin problems, insomnia, senility, ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, addictions, and so on, you may want to consider rethinking your sugar consumption.
Sugar Myths and Anwers
Myth #1 Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar.
I see many magazine recipes that contain brown sugar. Sometimes they claim to be healthier for my family. Are they?
There is absolutely no nutritional difference between white sugar and brown sugar. At both the molecular and energetic levels, they are exactly the same.
Myth #2. Honey is healthier because it is natural.
I’m careful about feeding my family natural foods. I use honey instead of sugar.
Honey comes from bees and most granulated sugars come from the sugar cane or beets, so both are from natural sources. Many jarred honeys are actually heated and filtered, as is many types of sugar. Generally speaking, honey is less processed, but this may not always be the case.
Each individual is different, but for some, certain types of honey can be a healthier choice than sugar. There are even very real positive health benefits from raw honeys such as manuka, and even some benefits from typical varietal cooked honey (such as buckwheat, wildflower, and eucalyptus). Still, honey is sugar and is loaded with calories.
Myth #3 Use artificial/engineered sweeteners if you want to lose weight.
I save calories with artificial sweeteners and since I avoid aspartame and saccharin, there is no danger to my health.
Some say “designer sweeteners” such as sucralose, aka Splenda™, Aspartame, Saccharin, and neotame, aka NutraSweet™ actually increase the insulin response in a similar way that sugar does. Not sure that the research backs this up, but research does show that those who drink diet soda tend to be as heavy or heavier than those who don’t.
Myth #4 There are alternative artificial/engineered sweeteners that are healthier than typical artificial/engineered sweeteners.
Other alternative sweeteners are at least better than the famous, name-brand sweeteners, right?
Some say Sorbitol, Xylitol, Maltitol, Manitol are better than aspartame, saccharin, and neotame. But the "ol" ending signifies that these sugars are alcohol-sugars—and they are heavily processed, too. They can cause serious upset stomach, gas, and bloating in some individuals. I personally think they taste “off” and wouldn’t use them.
Stevia, aka sweetleaf, is produced from a leafy plant and is generally sold as either a powder or a liquid. There are claims made that it actually improves glucose tolerance. It can have a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Two months ago, for the purposes of writing about sweeteners, I tried Truvia™ an engineered sweetener that is based on stevia and other ingredients. I found it tasted slightly and unpleasantly salty. I also couldn’t digest it properly. Someone offered me a bottled drink the other day (not something I usually consume). I took one sip and said “This tastes like salt—it must contain Truvia. My friend said it didn’t and showed me the label. The label actually listed the ingredients in Truvia!
Agave Syrup is distilled from a few varieties of the agave plant, which is related to Yucca. It is intensely sweet, and some varieties and brands have a stronger taste than others. It is nearly twice as sweet as sugar (and is a high-calorie food) but it does have a much lower glycemic index. This means that it does not appear to cause the yo-yo effects of many other sweeteners. Sounds good, right? However, it has been implicated in raising triglyceride levels so probably it’s best to use it only occasionally and in small quantities.
For more information contact Mrs. Zwolinski at firstname.lastname@example.org and see Chaya Rivka’s Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners (http://healthyjewishcooking.com/2011/05/25/chaya-rivkas-guide-to-sugars-and-sweeteners/) and Sweetness and Light (http://healthyjewishcooking.com/2011/05/23/sweetness-and-light/