Is there really any substitute for sugar?
A while ago I posted a blog on why sugar is so bad for you. Then, I followed that up with another on sports drinks and how much sugar is in Gatorade (14 teaspoons every 32 ounces). Naturally, both blogs generated a lot of comments and questions. The most common question was what to replace sugar with. Well, I have created a Top Three list of what not to use, followed by my number one suggestion for what to replace sugar with. Read this with your big boy pants on, and don’t shoot the messenger!
The Three Worst Choices for Sugar Substitutes Are:
- Saccharine (Sweet ‘n Low): It’s been around for 100 years or so. It’s made from petroleum (Do you want to eat gasoline?). In the 1970’s, the USDA found that it caused cancer in the bladder, skin, uterus, ovaries, and a few other “minor” organs. Thus came the USDA ban, followed by the [application of lots of lobbying money] removal of the ban a few years later with the warning label “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health.” The warning label was removed in 2000, and you can buy this stuff almost anywhere.
- Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal): This sweetener contains two amino acids, phenylaline and aspartic acid with methanol. Sounds yummy! The FDA examined this product and gave it the go-ahead. However, much like MSG, it acts like a toxin that over-stimulates nerve cells in the brain. After learning this, the FDA was kind enough to put a warning out for any products with aspartame in them. Again, feel free to grab as many packets as you like at your local store.
- Sucralose (Splenda): The FDA approved Sucralose in the late 1990’s. It actually starts as sugar, but it’s chemically treated so the sugar can’t be metabolized. As you can imagine, that’s not good, but it still tastes sweet and has zero calories. No studies have shown any adverse side affects yet, but relative to the other sugar substitutes, it’s new to the market. There are lots of non-scientific “studies” based on real stories of people who have developed severe allergic reactions to Sucralose. Again, you can buy it almost anywhere.
My only recommendation for a sugar substitute (in moderation of course) is:
Stevioside (Stevia): It’s a plant based non-caloric sweetener. It’s been used for centuries to control appetite, to add to baking for sweetness, and to help control blood sugar levels. It’s totally natural and FDA approved, if that means anything. Just make sure to look on the ingredient list if you buy Stevia. All you should see is stevioside and rebaudioside. Unlike some commercial brands like Stevia, the first ingredient (meaning it’s is the highest in volume) is erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol that sometimes causes digestive upset, headache and diarrhea just like sorbitol and xylitol – two well-known sugar alcohols (substitutes).
So there it is….short and sweet! Being healthy doesn’t mean being sweet-free. Eating sweet things can be part of a healthy lifestyle when done in moderation and when using ingredients that are natural and not harmful to your body.