Sugar Alternatives: Which Sweeteners Should You Use?

Sugar Alternatives: Which Sweeteners Should You Use?

Everytime you take a trip to the grocery store, there seems to be a new "IT" sweetener: agave, stevia, xylitol, powders, and drops, and syrups, and more! With the abundance of options, how are you supposed to know which one to use?

Not to worry - we're here to help! First, consider your reasons for buying sweetener. Do you want to add a touch of sweetness to your Blast? Would you like to improve the flavor without increasing your blood sugar? Or do you need a quick energy boost before you head out for a long run?

I don’t know about you, but I like my Blasts a bit on the sweeter side. Most people are naturally drawn to sweet tasting foods. However, we've gone overboard as a nation. Americans consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, which is over double the recommended maximum amount. Sugar already pops up in the most unsuspecting foods, it's almost unavoidable, so thinking about sugar alternatives can be a good place to start.

READER ALERT: I’m about to start sweet talkin’ you!

Blood Sugar-Friendly Sweeteners

Powdered Green Stevia (also available in liquid form) –

This herb has been used for centuries in South America and is widely popular in Japan. With 300 times the sweetness of regular sugar, a little bit goes a long way. This sweet leaf is calorie-free and has no glycemic impact, making it a suitable choice for those with diabetes and those looking to watch their figure. In addition to providing a touch of sweetness, stevia is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and may support a balance of internal flora for digestive health.

Glycemic Index: 0

Lucuma powder – Imagine a “sugar” that is actually good for your immune system! Well, we may have found a winner. Lucuma, a popular South American fruit with a hint of maple and butterscotch flavor, is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene. In addition, it's noted for providing niacin, calcium, and iron. Lucuma provides only 2 grams of fruit sugars for every 11 grams of carbohydrate, lending long-lasting energy without spiking your blood sugar.

Glycemic Index: 25

Mesquite Powder – This finely ground tree powder is gluten-free with a mild molasses and caramel flavor. Not only does it supply a low glycemic index touch of sweetness, it contains fiber and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, plus the amino acid lysine.

Glycemic Index: 25

Yacon Root Powder or Syrup – This South American root provides a mild molasses-like sweetness with half the calories of sugar. Yacon's sweetness comes from low-calorie, low-carb FOS (fructooligosaccharides) that taste sweet, but won’t affect blood sugar levels and will help feed your gut’s healthy bacteria to promote good digestive health. A small dose of potassium, calcium, and magnesium in addition to antioxidants and vitamins make yacon a healthy Blast boost!

Glycemic Index: 1

Coconut Palm Sugar – Coconut is all the rage these days! Sap from the coconut palm is heated and reduced to tiny granules. Its low score on the glycemic index makes it a great sweetener for a boost of energy, without the subsequent crash. It has a more rich taste than sugar, somewhat similar to brown sugar. Use it measure for measure in place of sugar.

Glycemic Index: 35

Just Like Sugar – This one is new to me! Made from chicory root, fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and natural flavors from the peel of an orange, it sounds like something worth looking further into! Use it measure for measure to regular sugar, but without the calories and glycemic spike. Read more about it here: http://www.justlikesugarinc.com/

Glycemic Index: Low, exact number unknown

More Suitable Natural Sweeteners

Raw Honey – Look for honey that is raw and locally produced to reap the full health benefits and prevent seasonal allergies! Honey is sweeter than sugar, however it packs in some healthful properties like vitamins and antimicrobial benefits. Calorie for calorie, honey ranks higher than sugar, but since it is sweeter, you can use less of it. Honey blends well in almost any NutriBlast!

Glycemic Index: 50

Date Sugar – As the name implies, date sugar comes from grinding down dried dates. This sugar lends a rich, sweet flavor much like brown sugar.

Glycemic Index: 62

Molasses – Most people are unaware of the nutritional benefits of Blackstrap molasses. This baked bean and gingerbread staple is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Glycemic Index: 55

Maple Syrup – The notorious pancake topper, maple syrup has so many other possible uses. Be sure to look for pure maple syrup since the ingredients of most pancake syrups do not contain an ounce of maple syrup and are filled with high fructose corn syrup and other fillers and artificial flavors. This sweet tooth tamer has a distinct flavor that pairs well in dessert Blasts and lends fewer calories and more minerals than honey.

Glycemic index: 54 – 68

Artichoke Syrup – While slightly hard to locate, this sweetener makes a great alternative to the white stuff. Artichoke syrup contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that feeds the healthy bacteria in your intestinal tract. Its low glycemic index benefits everyone, especially those with diabetes or candida.

Glycemic Index: Claimed to be low, but exact number unknown

Healthy Sweeteners in Disguise

In general, the following sweeteners are derived from various sugar alcohols and/or are highly processed. While researches continue to do their job and before I know more, I prefer to stick with the more natural options listed above!

Xylitol – You may recognize this ingredient listed on the front of your sugar free Trident gum. This sugar alcohol helps prevent the growth of bacteria and has been proven to reduce dental carries. It's naturally found in fibrous fruits and veggies as well as made by our own bodies. I’m not sold one way or the other on this one, but for now, if choosing this sweetener, be sure to look for xylitol derived from a natural source like birch bark and not from man-made synthetic chemicals or GMO corn. Also, keep consumption in moderation as it has been shown to cause digestive discomfort in some people.

Glycemic index: 7

Swerve – This “healthy alternative” has recently made an appearance on grocery store shelves. Made of erythritol, oligosaccharides, and natural flavors, this sounds more like a chemistry experiment than something I'd want to consume. Erythritol, a sugar alcohol, is not completely absorbed by your body, which is why it provides fewer calories than regular sugar. This comes at a price, which includes possible adverse physical symptoms like gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and/or headache. If consumed in reasonable quantities, these side effects may not present themselves. The second ingredient, oligosaccharides, are non-digestible carbohydrates similar to fiber that can help stimulate beneficial bacteria in the large intestines and “natural flavors” are said to come from fruit and vegetable sources.

Glycemic Index: 0

Truvia – Truvia is made from stevia leaf extract, bleached to be white. It also contains erythritol, addressed above, and natural flavors. The term “natural” has yet to be defined, so your guess as to what this ingredient contains is as good as mine.

Glycemic Index: 0

Nectresse – This is the latest buzz sweetener, derived from monk fruit. Also known as luo han guo, monk fruit is grown in the valleys and foothills of sub-tropical Asia. It's about 200 times sweeter than sugar and contains zero calories. Nectresse contains monk fruit extract, but also adds in erythritol, as well as sugar and molasses. If you’re looking for a natural, healthy sweetener, this one doesn’t really stand up to its competition.

Glycemic Index: Low

Agave Nectar – Agave has been given a “health halo” from the industry. What we know is that this sweetener is primarily made up of fructose, which is metabolized differently in our body, going straight to the liver instead of the blood. While this path may prevent those nasty blood sugar and insulin spikes, it may have a negative impact on your liver, triglycerides, and metabolic system. In addition, most agave syrups on the market are highly processed to the point where they are no better for you than high fructose corn syrup… possibly even worse.

Glycemic Index: 15

Avoid

Aspartame – Better recognized as Equal or NutriSweet and found in many low calorie foods, this artificial sweetener is a synthetic combination of the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid. People with the disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) must avoid this sweetener and, to be honest, I think we all should as well. Some people react to aspartame negatively with headaches and the research on its link to cancer is still awaiting a final conclusion.

Glycemic Index: 0

Acesulfame Potassium - Also known as Ace-K, is probably the worst artificial sweetener on the market, according to Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). First of all, our bodies cannot metabolize acesulfame, which is why it is zero-calorie, and secondly, there isn’t much research to show its safety.

Glycemic Index: 0

Splenda (Sucralose) – Another artificial sweetener that, despite what it’s marketing claims, is not sugar, but is actually a creation by scientists in a lab. While we are not sure if it's harmful, why take a chance? Ditch the yellow packet for something without potential health implications.

Glycemic Index: 0

Sweet ‘N Low – Another packet of synthetic chemicals. In a human study done by the National Cancer Institute, they found “some evidence of an increased risk for bladder cancer” in heavy saccharine users. With all the healthier options now available, it’s best to avoid any and all artificial sweeteners.

Glycemic Index: 0

Registered Dietitian


Comments
I heard that stevia, along with some other alternative sweeteners, can kill dogs/cats and not to let them ever taste it or eat it. I heard that some peanut butter companies are now using this as an alternative in their products because it is cheaper. They can just call it a natural sugar on the label. Not that I'd give my pets my nutra blasts or smoothies, but I just wonder how safe it is for us if it is so bad for them. Also, I have cancer and take chemo and I don't want to eat anything that might make me worse. I am unsure what powdered products of yours I want to buy. Can you tell me the ones that don't have the stevia or other artificial sugars that I can try?
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