The Benefits of Natural Sweeteners
Health professionals are telling us that most adults and children in the UK eat too much sugar and are labelling it a poison and a toxin. You can cut down by avoiding cakes, biscuits, sweets and sugary fizzy drinks but if you look at the labels of things in your store cupboard you may be surprised at the number of items containing large amounts of sugar. Giving up sugar can be tough but it is well worth the effort given how harmful sugar can be to our health.
Eating too many sugary foods can mean you are consuming more calories than you need and therefore may start to gain weight increasing your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
Sugary foods and drinks can also cause tooth decay and the longer the sugar is in contact with the teeth the greater the damage that can be done. Fruit juices and dried fruits in moderation are healthy as part of a balanced diet but it is recommended they are taken as part of a main meal to minimise dental damage.
If you want to eliminate sugar completely from your diet you should remember that it will be like breaking an addiction and you may experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings for a few weeks.
All sweeteners should be used in moderation and your choice is often based on personal taste preference. Natural products available include honey, agave, molasses, rice syrup, date syrup, coconut palm sugar and maple syrup. Molasses and maple syrup contain other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals which some people may prefer and raw local honey will be rich in antioxidants and may help with allergy symptom.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame can give an aftertaste and have long since been the subject of controversy. At one point there were suggestions they could be linked with increased incidence of cancer but so far there has been no scientific evidence to support this.
Stevia is a popular low calorie sweetener extracted from the plant Stevia Rebaudiana which has been used for many years in South America both for sweetness and medicinal purposes. Stevia is very sweet but has virtually no calories. Some initial trials have suggested that stevia can help with lowering blood pressure as well as sugar levels reducing in those with Diabetes.
Another group of natural sweeteners are known as sugar alcohols which is misleading as they do not contain alcohol – the name purely refers to the chemical structure. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a similar taste to sugar but only two thirds of the calories and seems to reduce the risk of dental cavities and decay but it is worth noting that it is highly toxic to dogs as are other substances in this category such as sorbitol and erythritol.
Whether your goal is cutting calories or eating healthier, sugar substitutes abound and it is important to do your “homework” to understand the pros and cons to make an informed decision as to which is the best product for you.