|Posted on May 3, 2016 at 3:50 PM|
Let’s face it, sweet treats simply make life a little sweeter. We use desserts, candy and delectable delights to celebrate successes, birthdays, and holidays. Sugar has been around since 8,000 BC with the cultivation of sugar cane in New Guinea. Sugar is still the number one choice as a sweetener around the world. Currently, the average American consumes roughly 39 lbs of sugar a year. High fructose corn syrup has quickly become second in the list of favorite sweeteners and the average American consumes about 27 lbs. It is no wonder that obesity has become an epidemic in this country and nearly 10% of the population has diabetes.
Sugar is not all bad. In moderation, sugar is a quick fuel for the body to be able to produce energy. It is when we over-consume sugar that we run into health risks like obesity and diabetes. A teaspoon of table sugar has about 15 calories. Taking into consideration that the average American consumes roughly 19 teaspoons, that is equal to 285 calories a day just from sugar. There are alternative choices available that are not only lower in calories but are also better to help reduce the risk of health issues like obesity and diabetes. Let’s look at two different classes of sweeteners: there are artificial and natural sweeteners.
Artificial or man-made sweeteners are usually prepared by using a chemical process. Aspartame with the brand names of Nutrasweet, Sugartwin and Equal, and Saccharin with the brand names of Sweet N Low, Sweet Twin and Nectasweet are two of the most popular artificial sweeteners. Some of the newer artificial sweeteners out on the market are: Sucralose (or Splenda), Acesulfame-Potassium, and Neotame. Many artificial sweeteners have little to zero calories per serving. But are they safe to consume? There are many critics of artificial sweeteners, touting that they may cause cancer. In fact, one artificial sweetener in particular, Saccharin, even carried a warning label to that effect. Currently, the National Cancer Institute and other agencies say that there is no definitive proof that any artificial sweeteners cause cancer or any other negative health issues. In fact, newer studies released on Saccharin show no negative health consequences in humans and this has allowed the warning label to be dropped. These sweeteners are a good alternative to help cut out unwanted calories in the diet and may be a good alternative for those who are trying to lose weight. Artificial sweeteners are made through chemical processes though and are synthetic. For those who are concerned about putting chemicals in their body, there are more natural choices of sweeteners.
Some of the more popular natural sweetener alternatives are: stevia leaf with the brand name Truvia, agave nectar, honey, and xylitol to name a few. Although these sweeteners do have calories, they are lower on the glycemic index scale which means they are not going to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels like table sugar does. The glycemic scale is a measurement of the rise in blood sugar levels caused by foods. The higher the number on the glycemic scale indicates that the food produces a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. This causes the pancreas to secrete insulin in order to transport the sugar from the blood into the cells. A dramatic rise in blood sugar can cause a sharp increase in energy followed by low blood sugar levels which can cause lethargy and even increased hunger. The glycemic index of table sugar (sucrose) is 65. Honey is 50, agave nectar is 15, xylitol is 12 and stevia is 0 on the scale. Artificial sweeteners are also 0 on the scale. Honey is lower on the glycemic scale but it is actually higher in calories than table sugar at 22 calories per teaspoon compared to 15 calories in table sugar. Agave nectar is also higher with 20 calories per teaspoon. Stevia leaf has 0 calories and is also 0 on the glycemic scale making it a wonderful alternative to table sugar and artificial sweeteners. Xylitol, considered a sugar alcohol, is usually derived from the birch tree. It is also naturally found in beets, mushrooms, oats, berries and corn. It has only 9.6 calories per teaspoon and is also 0 on the glycemic scale. Xylitol also has the amazing ability to prevent tooth decay by preventing plaque formation. Some people may be sensitive to xylitol as it may cause abdominal discomfort. When choosing this sweetener, start out slowly to test tolerance.
There are many alternative sweetener choices available, it’s up to you to decide which ones are the right fit for you. The most important thing to consider is to try and consume sweeteners in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 150 calories from added sugar. If you crave sugar and sweets, try giving yourself a break from all sugary foods for two weeks. It may be possible that you have a sugar addiction. Taking a two week hiatus will allow your body to break the addiction and will also give your taste buds a chance to change. You may not only see a reduction in your weight from cutting out the calories of the sugary foods but you will probably also notice that your sugar cravings will have subsided and sweet treats will begin to taste much sweeter than they had before. Instead, try snacking on foods that are higher in protein. The protein will allow you to feel fuller longer and will not spike your blood sugar levels like simple carb and sugary snacks will.
Remember, Your Health is True Wealth!
Diane Kingsley RD LDN LMT
Diane Kingsley is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian and Licensed Massage Therapist with a private practice in Vero Beach, FL. For a complimentary 10 minute phone consultation, please call 1-772-538-2960.