Pushing Pink Elephants
 

Sugar Alternatives

Now that we’ve identified where sugar is hiding in our diets and worked to reduce unnecessary sugar, let’s take a look at some common sugar substitutes.   A major concern about sugar is how it affects blood sugar levels.  The glycemic index is used as a rating system to measure how quickly and how high a specific carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels If a carbohydrate releases its energy too quickly, blood sugar levels are disrupted.  This can cause a quick surge of energy that quickly dissipates to feelings of tiredness, weakness, and hunger.  A GI below 55-60 is considered low.  Low GI foods do not cause high spikes in blood sugar, thus helping to maintain lower blood sugar levels.  A GI above 60-70 is considered high and causes unhealthy blood sugar spikes.  Ideally, high GI foods should be avoided, but eating them occasionally alongside low GI foods can help to regulate blood sugar levels.

 

Unfortunately, choosing a healthier sugar substitute is not as simple as sticking with low GI foods.  There are other factors to consider, such as the ratio of glucose to fructose found in a food.  Agave syrup is made of 90 percent fructose and 10 percent glucose.  Its low GI looks appealing, but it may not be an ideal choice because high fructose intake is linked to increased weight gain and higher triglycerides.  On the other hand, some foods with a high GI have the added nutritional benefit of naturally occurring nutrients and minerals, making them better choices than table sugar  and other sweeteners that do not contain any added health benefits.  There are varying opinions about which sweeteners are best, so we recommend conducting your own research to determine what fits best into your diet.



 

Sweetener

Description

GI

Added Nutritional Value

Agave

syrup

Agave syrup, or nectar, is produced by heating the juice extracted from the blue agave plant. It is sold in liquid form, similar in coloring and consistency to maple syrup.  

*Although agave has a low GI, it is made up mostly of fructose. Unlike fruits that are high in fructose, agave lacks vitamins and minerals. Fructose has been linked to diseases and weight gain. 

LOW

No

Coconut sugar

 

Coconut sugar, also called coconut palm sugar, is made from the flowers of the coconut tree by evaporating the tree’s sap. Coconut sugar is most commonly found in crystallized form, but is also available as a syrup, a hard block, or a soft paste. Coconut sugar can be used to replace refined table sugar in baking with minimal change to taste or texture. It is rich in nutrients, such as potassium.

LOW

Yes;

nutrients

and

minerals

Honey

Honey is produced by honeybees using flower nectar. Honey is comprised mostly of sugar and contains small amounts of antioxidants and nutrients, such as protein. Honey has been used for centuries for healing and health benefits, including its antibacterial properties and its ability to reduce inflammation. Fruit honeys have a lower GI, while commercial honeys like pure honey and clover honey have higher GI.

MID - HIGH

 

Yes;

vitamins

and

minerals

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. Unlike many table syrups, pure maple syrup contains only evaporated maple tree sap with no additives. It is comprised of mostly sucrose and water and includes vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and zinc. 

MID - HIGH

 

Yes;

vitamins

and

minerals

Stevia

Stevia is a shrub that has been used as a sweetener in South America and Asia for centuries. It is sold in crystallized and liquid form. It is more potent than table sugar, so it should be substituted in much smaller amounts. Stevia has minimal effect on blood sugar and contains nutrients such as chromium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc and niacin, which are known to help regulate blood sugar.

LOW

Yes;

nutrients

and

minerals

Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Because it has a different molecule structure than other sweeteners, it doesn’t convert to acid that causes tooth decay. It occurs naturally in small amounts in berries, vegetables, corn and mushrooms. Eating a small to regular amount of xylitol does not appear to pose any serious health risks, but consuming excessive amounts can lead to issues such as diarrhea and weight gain.

LOW

No

 

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