The Best & Worst Sweeteners
We can’t deny that we all like the sweet stuff sometimes, especially during the holidays! Since we tend to slip sugar and sugar substitutes into our drinks and desserts, we really need to pay attention to the many sweeteners we are consuming. Though we know that refined white sugar isn’t the best option, those natural sweeteners and synthetic sugar substitutes may be just as damaging to our weight-loss and beauty goals. Here’s a diet guide to sweeteners – the good, the bad and the ones that make you fat.
Fake sweeteners are chemicals that accelerate aging
Let's start with the no-no's: fake sweeteners, including aspartame, saccharine and Splenda. These sweeteners are acid-forming in the body. Aspartame is a molecule made up of acid-forming compounds, including an excitotoxin called aspartic acid, methyl ester (which breaks down to formaldehyde and formic acid) and phenylalanine. When our bodies become overly acidic, it can accelerate aging and drastically dull our skin and hair.
Synthetic sweeteners can pack on the pounds
Furthermore, studies have shown that these fake sweeteners can lead to weight gain. Some researchers believe that the two main ingredients in aspartame, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, stimulate the release of insulin and leptin, hormones that instruct our bodies to store fat! What about Splenda? Researchers from the Duke University Medical Center showed that this sugar substitute can indeed lead to increases in body weight in lab studies. Don't be lured by the zero-calorie pull – we have to see how a food, or in this case an artificial compound, reacts in our body. There is more to weight gain than just calorie counting!
Natural sweeteners aren't so natural
On to agave. Today agave is widely advertised as being a "healthy" plant-based sweetener that is low-glycemic. But agave actually has to go through extensive processing to arrive in the syrup form that we purchase today. And if you dig a little further, you'll discover that agave is mostly fructose -- depending on the brand, up to 90 percent fructose! Even the demonized high fructose corn syrup is only about 55 percent fructose. In lab studies, fructose has been shown to lead to fat storage in the body and promoting aging. Yikes! I used to use it and even promote it on my TV segments! But since learning the real deal about it, I have cut agave out of my diet completely.
Best sweeteners for weight loss and beauty
Not only is stevia a zero-calorie sweetener and low-glycemic, it is a natural herb from South America. It is not made of a cornucopia of scary chemicals derived from lab experiments that may create toxic reactions in our body! Anything that is natural will be digested and be processed by our body in a much more harmonious way. Some say stevia has a bitter aftertaste, and I used to think that as well. But over time our tastebuds can and do adjust.
Xylitol is a lower-calorie substitute that is actually a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is even healthy for our teeth, and the taste is also palatable for most people.
Dates and other dried fruit
While dried fruits are more concentrated in sugar, they are unrefined, whole foods that are found in nature. Our bodies know how to digest them. Dried fruit can be very useful in moderation, and if you need a syrup for a dessert, simply blend dates with water. I'll take that over disruptive chemicals or fructose any day. For diabetics and those with sugar issues, however, stevia or xylitol are better bets.
I hope this helps you navigate the confusing world of sweeteners. The New Year is coming, so start now and take good care of your body and health.
More on sugar, natural sweeteners and sugar substitutes
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