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How Sweet It Is

Posted by Daniella Cippitelli on
How Sweet It Is

It’s the end of October and we are officially in the season of sweets and treats. There are many options out there on how to sweeten side dishes and desserts, but do you know which might be a bit healthier or that some artificial sweeteners might have some side effects? Let’s break down the options so you can make some better choices for more than just the waistline. 

Arguably the most common way to sweeten drinks and foods is sugar. Sugar is a broad term and is comprised of glucose and fructose, which is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beet.

 

What are the different kinds of sweeteners? 

Nutritive Sweeteners
Nutritive sweeteners contain carbohydrates and provide calories. These are what are commonly referred to as ‘sugar,’ or added ‘sugar’ in packaged and prepared food. On food packaging, sweeteners can be listed as:

  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose

 

Polyols
Another group of sweeteners is polyols. These are sugar alcohols and can include:

  • Erythritol
  • Isomalt
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

These sugar alcohols have a lesser effect on blood glucose but do contain carbohydrates and some calories. The polyols are often marketed as ‘diabetic’ or ‘suitable for diabetics’ though they can still be high in fat and calories, be sure to check with your doctor if you have diabetes and are wondering if these are safe additives for you. Polyols can have a laxative effect in some people and cause bloating.

 

Artificial Sweeteners

Perhaps the most controversial of sweeteners are the artificial group. Artificial sweeteners tend to have an aftertaste. These include:

  • Sucralose
  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame
  • Xylitol

These artificial sweeteners should be used sparingly as there are many studies as to their long-term health risks.

The healthiest choice is always to limit sugar and sweetener intake. But sometimes, you need to sweeten things up. While some may consider the ‘natural’ sweeteners healthier, they still add calories and carbohydrates and should still be consumed in moderation. Some natural alternatives you can use include:

Monk fruit: Monk fruit has anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and has protective properties for nerve cells. It has no calories and does not impact blood sugar. Since it is heat stable you can use it in baking and cooking.

Fruit puree: Mash up some bananas or use applesauce to sweeten recipes. While you won’t be skipping out on calories or blood sugar spikes, you will get the benefit of vitamins, fiber, and minerals the fruit has to offer.

Honey: Honey is a popular natural sweetener choice, and it packs amazing health benefits including helping with allergies, improving sleep, and boosting the immune system.

 

What is Stevia?

While Stevia is a sugar substitute it is considered ‘natural’. It is made from plants and sweeter than table sugar with no carbohydrates, calories, or artificial ingredients. It does come with an aftertaste however that some people are not fond of. Stevia comes in powder and liquid forms. While you can use it like table sugar, baking with it might be trickier since it does not have the same chemical properties as sugar, therefore altering the texture of baked goods.

  

Limiting sugar intake, in any form is part of a healthy lifestyle, especially when trying to limit calories or keep blood sugar levels in check. But if you’re pulling out the baking sheets and pans, why not try some of the natural choices and see how they work for your tastebuds.

 

If you have diabetes or other chronic illness, always check with your health care provider to be sure any dietary ingredients are safe.

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