Uncovering sugar substitutes

Too sweet to resist? Think again!

by: Jade Lawrence
 
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Sugar “The Silent Killer” is one of the top causes of death and illness. And even though the intake of table sugar has decreased, consumers are unaware of the large amounts of sugar in processed foods.

Most people are now opting for sugar substitutes, which have both positive and negative effects on the body.

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Agave
A honey like substance made from the agave plant. Agave offers no health benefits (only adds sweetness) and is 20 calories higher than a Tbs of sugar, which then implies that this substitute should be used in smaller amounts and is after all not as great as it’s made out to be. With a higher content of fructose, it will cause an increase in your blood sugar level and also decrease your metabolism.

Stevia
You get the raw kind and the packaged kind. Stevia is much sweeter than table sugar, and it too does not increase blood sugar levels. For the product to be made into tiny crystals, the manufactures have to go through a long process using different kinds of chemicals (acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol). Some are known carcinogens!

Aspartame
Commercially known as NutraSweet® and Equal®. To make aspartame, two amino acids are joined (aspartic acid and phenylalanine), one would think this will increase the energy value but being 200 times sweet than table sugar, less is used, decreasing the amount of energy. On the up side it doesn’t cause tooth decay!

Fructose
Largely found in fruit and vegetables as well as honey. Fructose has the same amount of calories as table sugar but being sweeter, less needs to be used, thereby decreasing the calorie intake. In the processed form fructose is absorbed into the body quicker than the natural form found in fruit, due to the fibre content of the fruit. Be careful of having too much fructose, it can cause diarrhea as well as raise blood sugar levels.

Honey
Being one of the healthier sugar substitutes, honey contains many vitamins and minerals and even some anti-oxidants .It has many medicinal uses which include; the treatment of asthma, coughs and hay fever. It can be used on the skin to heal wounds and to treat sunburn (may be a bit sticky though).

Xylitol
Xylitol contains less calories than sugar per tsp (about 40%) and hardly has an effect on blood glucose levels due to the lack of fructose present, making it a popular choice among those who follow a low carb diet. A high intake however can have a negative effect on one's gastro-intestinal tract - causing acid reflux problems and diarrhea. It should be kept away from people who suffer from epileptic attacks as it can increase their frequency. According to studies it might have a negative effect on the body later in life due to it being a hydrogenated sugar (goes through an industrialized process).

Think before you sweeten!

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