Is sugar a dietary weakness of yours? Numerous people crave it. However, even if you do not have a sweet tooth, it might be difficult to avoid sugar entirely. Almost everything has been sweetened — from soda and other sweetened beverages to nearly all processed meals.
There is a significant difference between added sugar and sugar that occurs naturally. Processed foods such as doughnuts, bread, sweets, soda, fruit punch, and sweet tea, as well as condiments such as ketchup and barbeque sauce, contain a significant amount of sugar. As a result, many people consume an excessive quantity of added sugar that has no nutritious value. We will be discussing the best alternatives to sugars in this article so give it a complete read for better understanding.
Sugar and Health
Sugar increases the flavor of food by sweetening and preserving it. This makes it difficult to avoid and resist, but the health advantages of sugar reduction are obvious.
- A high-sugar diet has been linked to a broad variety of health problems, either directly or indirectly through obesity-related problems.
- Consuming an excessive amount of sugar can result in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
- Inadequate nutrient absorption, elevated lipid levels, and dental damage are all associated with excessive sugar consumption.
- Additionally, it has been associated with impaired cognitive function, impairing memory, and raising the risk of dementia.
To have a brief look at what other bad effects the added artificial sugar can have on your health.? We have a dedicated article for this. Read it here.
Healthy Sugar Alternatives.
Fortunately, a variety of sugar alternatives and sweeteners — both natural and artificial — are available to assist you in reducing your use of table sugar. Sugar restriction is especially critical for elderly persons. There are a few things that are to be kept in mind while deciding which sugar alternatives work best for you.
- Keep the reason in mind why you want to cut down the sugar from your diet. If you have diabetes, artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, may be a preferable option if used in moderation. Naturally occurring sweets, such as honey, can still elevate blood sugar levels. Always consult a physician or dietician if you are unsure about your best course of action.
- Understand the sugar alternatives available. Sugar alternatives are classified into four categories: artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, innovative sweeteners, and natural sweeteners. Each has possible advantages and disadvantages based on your objectives. But each alternative is somehow less harmful than added sugar.
Types of Alternatives to Sugar.
Whether or whether sugar replacements are a healthy option for you is dependent on the sort of sweetener you use, the amount you use, and the purpose for which you use it. Research has found out following types of sweeteners for us.
1. Natural Sweeteners. Preference for sweet flavor is not just intrinsic, but universal. Natural sweeteners are the form of a substitute for sugars that they’re low in calories and sugar and have a highly sweet flavor. Compared to artificial sweeteners, they are less processed and closer to their natural origins. Natural sweeteners include the following:
- Maple syrup
- Monk Fruit Sweetener
2. Sugar Alcohols. Sugar alcohols, or polyols, are carbohydrates. They are, as the name indicates, hybrids of sugar and alcohol molecules. Although they have a similar name, sugar alcohol, and alcoholic drinks are not chemically identical. Sugar alcohol is devoid of the ethanol present in alcoholic drinks. However, the sugar alcohols that many corporations use to sweeten meals are manufactured in a number of methods on an industrial scale. While some believe sugar alcohols are zero-calorie sweeteners, they are considered low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs) Numerous processed foods include sugar alcohols, including hard candies, ice cream, puddings, baked goods, and chocolate. Additionally, they are present in chewing gum, toothpaste, and mouthwash. They may be used with other types of alternatives to sugars.
The most often seen sugar alcohols in foods are as follows:
- Erythritol – contains 0.2 calories per gram and is approximately 60% to 80% as sweet as sugar.
- Isomalt has only two calories per gram and is 45 to 65 percent sweeter than sugar.
- Maltitol – has 2.1 calories per gram and is 90% sweeter than sugar.
- Mannitol – 1.6 calories per gram and 50–70% sweeter than sugar
- Sorbitol – 2.6 calories per gram and 50–70% sweeter than sugar
- Xylitol – has 2.4 calories per gram and is equivalent in sweetness to sugar.
3. Artificial Sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners, often known as sugar substitutes, are chemicals that are added to some foods and beverages to enhance their sweetness. They are frequently referred to as “strong sweeteners” because they have a taste comparable to table sugar but are hundreds of times sweeter. While certain sweeteners may include calories, the quantity required to sweeten items is so minimal that you end up ingesting virtually no calories. Sugar alcohols are around 25%–100% as sweet as sugar, but have fewer calories and do not have the bad consequences associated with ordinary sugar. Among the most often used artificial sweeteners are:
- Acesulfame K
Reducing your use of refined sugar might be challenging, but given how profoundly dangerous excess sugar intake can be, the effort is well worth it.
The majority of sugar substitutes are many times sweeter than sugar. It takes less of these sugar alternatives to get the same sweetness level. Certain sugar alternatives are calorie-free. Others have few or no calories.
Common Substitutes and Alternatives to Sugars
As a result of having a chemical structure that is very similar to sugar, artificial sweeteners are able to excite the same taste buds as sugar.
- Type: Natural Sweetener.
- Benefits: Dates are dried date palm fruits. These sweet, chewy fruits are a great sugar substitute and have many health advantages. Dates are a rich source of minerals, including fiber, potassium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B6, and antioxidants such as carotenoid and polyphenol. In a 16-week trial, one group of 100 adults with type 2 diabetes consumed three dates daily, whereas the other group consumed none. Total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels decreased significantly in the date group, while HbA1c — a measure of long-term blood sugar management — remained stable.
- How to Use: Consuming 2-3 dates daily on an empty stomach protects you against a variety of health concerns. Researchers discovered in a 2020 clinical trial that consuming three dates per day did not result in a rise in body mass index (BMI). Dates complement smoothies, baked products, sauces, marinades, and salad dressings very well. Some people grind dates into a thick paste that can be used in place of refined sugar Date paste is often sweeter than sugar, so while baking, you’ll want to minimize both the amount added.
- Type: Natural Sweetener.
- Benefits: Honey is a viscous, golden liquid that honeybees make. It includes trace levels of vitamins and minerals, as well as an abundance of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant components. Compounds found in honey, such as honey polyphenols, may aid in the regulation of inflammation in the body. Additionally, honey has a lower glycemic index (GI) than table sugar. These characteristics may make it a healthier alternative to refined sugar.
- How to Use: If you prefer to use honey, do it sparingly, as it still contains a significant amount of sugar and calories. Honey is especially delicious when added to smoothies, baked goods, sauces, marinades, and salad dressings. However, limit yourself to 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) of honey per day.
3. Maple Syrup.
- Type: Natural sweetener
- Benefits: Maple syrup is a viscous, sweet liquid prepared by boiling maple tree sap. It is mineral-rich, including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese. Additionally, it is high in phenolic compounds like lignans and coumarins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- How to Use: Maple syrup is versatile and may be used to enhance the flavor of both sweet and savory recipes. Utilize it in healthy breakfast alternatives to pancakes dressings etc like oatmeal, coffee, or plain yogurt, as well as savory foods like veggies, poultry, salmon, and salad dressings. However, maple syrup, like other natural sweeteners, is rich in calories and should be eaten sparingly.
- Type: Natural Sweetener.
- Benefits: Stevia is a widely popular sugar substitute with a low-calorie count. It is derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. This natural sweetener is derived from one of two glycosides found in plants: stevioside or rebaudioside A. These molecules are calorie-free, up to 450 times sweeter than sugar, and may have a somewhat different flavor profile than sucrose. Several human studies indicate that stevia may have health advantages, including the following. Stevia may aid hypertensive individuals in lowering their blood pressure. However, it has no effect on blood pressure levels that are normal. While stevia is usually regarded harmless, certain studies indicate that it may have a detrimental effect on your gut microbiota.
- How to Use: According to the World Health Organization, an acceptable daily dose (ADI) of stevia is 4 mg per kilogram of body weight. Stevia is a calorie-free plant extract. As a result, you need less of it to get the same sweetness as sugar. Because stevia extract is low in calories, it is a good sugar substitute for diabetics or people trying to lose weight. Though it is non-chemical, stevia extract has a distinct aftertaste even after it has been purified, which is why some people dislike using it as a coffee or tea sweetener.
5. Monk Fruit Sweetener.
- Type: Natural Sweetener.
- Benefits: Monk fruit is a Southeast Asian native fruit. It is derived from the native Siraitia grosvenorii plant. It is frequently used to manufacture monk fruit extract, a natural sweetener. Despite being nearly 300 times sweeter than table sugar, monk fruit has no calories. This sweetness is derived from mogrosides, namely, mogroside V, which helps in the reduction of inflammation in the body. It is calorie and carbohydrate-free, and some study indicates that it may aid with blood sugar regulation. Although there has been little study on the effects of monk fruit on humans, it is generally regarded as harmless and has not been linked to any harmful side effects.
- How to Use: Monk fruit sweeteners, according to some, leave an aftertaste. If you are sensitive to a particular flavor, use caution while using it in cooking and baking.
- Type: Natural sweetener.
- Benefits: Allulose, also known as D-allulose, is a naturally occurring monosaccharide (or sugar) found in some fruits. It is 70% as sweet as table sugar and contains just 0.2 calories per gram. In comparison to many other zero- and low-calorie alternatives to sugars, allulose tastes very much like conventional sugar. Human studies indicate that allulose may aid in the reduction of blood sugar and insulin levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics.
- How to Use: This sweetener is available in granulated and liquid forms and is great for baking frothy foods such as cakes, muffins, and quick bread. Take note of the fact that excessive dosages may cause bloating, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort; thus, one should limit yourself to a single dose of 0.19 grams per pound (0.4 grams per kg) of body weight and a daily dose of 0.4 grams per pound (0.9 grams per kg).
- Type: Sugar Alcohol.
- Benefits: It is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in some fruits. However, powdered erythritol that is available for purchase is very certainly manufactured industrially. Erythritol has a calorie content of 0.2 per gram, as a point of comparison, sucrose — or table sugar — has 4 calories per gram. It has 70% of the sweetness of sugar but just 5% of the calories. Because erythritol does not reach the large intestine in considerable proportions, it does not have the same digestive adverse effects as the majority of other sugar alcohols. Rather than that, the majority of it is absorbed by the small intestine and distributed throughout the body before being eliminated unaltered in the urine.
- How to Use: Erythritol can be used in the same way as sugar. It is OK to add it to coffee or tea, sprinkle it on grapefruit, or use it in baking. Bear in mind that this is a sugar substitute, not real sugar, and hence the baked goods may have a different taste or consistency than you are accustomed to.
- Type: Sugar Alcohol.
- Benefits: Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that has a comparable sweetness to sugar. Xylitol appears to provide certain oral health benefits, such as lowering the risk of cavities and tooth decay. That is why, it is frequently found in sugar-free chewing gums, mints, and oral care products such as toothpaste. According to certain animal studies, it may also help maintain bone density, hence assisting in the prevention of osteoporosis. Xylitol is the sweetest of all sugar alcohols, yet has around 40% fewer calories than sugar. While most people tolerate xylitol well, excessive use may cause stomach issues.
- How to Use: It can be used in commercially created sugar-free sweets, jams or jellies, baked items, and frozen yogurt. Xylitol is available in granulated form, making it simple to substitute for sugar in drinks, fruit, and cereal.
- Type: Artificial Sweetener.
- Benefits: Sucralose is a sugar substitute that contains no calories. It is approximately 600 times as sweet as sugar. It has been extensively investigated and is FDA-approved as a safe sugar alternative for persons on a calorie-restricted diet, people with diabetes, and pregnant or nursing women. Sucralose and other sugar alternatives suggested for use in the United States do not appear to cause cancer or other major health issues, according to the National Cancer Institute.
- How to Use: It is found in a wide variety of processed foods and beverages. Soft beverages, juices, sauces, syrups, confectionery, pastries, baked foods, and canned fruits are just a few examples. It is employed in pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, and vitamins. Additionally, it is utilized as a tabletop sweetener. Sucralose is suitable for baking since it retains its sweetness at high temperatures. To achieve the best results, follow the directions on the package when using it in recipes.
- Type: Artificial Sweetener.
- Benefits: It is synthesized in the laboratory by oxidizing o-toluene sulfonamide or phthalic anhydride. It has the appearance of white, crystalline powder. It was considered to be the cause of bladder cancer in some research of the 1970s, but people, observational research revealed no conclusive relationship between saccharin intake and cancer risk. (2 )(3). However long-term usage of this sweetener may have negative effects on human health. The current study’s findings indicate that long-term saccharin use increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and liver and kidney impairment. Additionally, the findings show an increased risk of brain carcinogenesis. Although these research findings suggest that caution should be maintained when using artificial sweeteners.
- Saccharin’s acceptable daily intake (ADI) has been established by the FDA as 2.3 mg per pound (5 mg per kg) of body weight. That is why it is suggested not to increase the recommended dosage.
- How to Use: Because it is approximately 300–400 times sweeter than normal sugar, a minimal amount is required to get a sweet flavor. However, it may leave a permanent aftertaste. That is why saccharin is frequently combined with other low- or no-calorie sweeteners for this reason. Saccharin is a sweetener that is frequently found in baked products, jellies, jelly, chewing gum, canned fruit, sweets, dessert toppings, and salad dressings. Additionally, it is present in cosmetic items like toothpaste and mouthwash. Additionally, it is a frequent constituent in medications, medicines, and vitamins.
The following table presents a summary of all the research-based risks associated with the consumption of sweeteners if any.
|Honey||Honey is not safe to feed to infants under the age of 12 months. As it can cause toxicity inside the baby’s intestines.|
|Maple Syrup||Maple syrup provides carbs in the form of sugars but not the fiber associated with them. As a result, maple syrup consumption might result in changes in blood sugar and insulin levels.|
|Stevia||There is concern that raw stevia herb may have a negative effect on your kidneys, reproductive system, and cardiovascular system. Additionally, it may cause dangerously low blood pressure or interfere with drugs that reduce blood sugar.|
|Monk Fruit Sweetener||No adverse health consequences have been established as per research.|
|Allulose||More than 54 grams of allulose per day may produce bloating, gas, and stomach pain.|
|Erythritol||Excessive consumption (more than 50gms) causes digestive disturbances.|
|Xylitol||Large doses of xylitol (30-40 grams) may cause diarrhea or flatulence.|
|Sucralose||Sucralose has been demonstrated to alter the gut microbiome by reducing the amount of beneficial bacteria.|
|Saccharine||Constant saccharin consumption raises the risk of obesity, diabetes, liver, and kidney disease. The studies also reveal an increased risk of brain cancer.|
It’s important to keep in mind that consuming an excessive amount of added sugar can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. Numerous studies have been conducted throughout the years to determine the safety of sugar substitutes. The outcomes of those studies support the conclusion that sugar replacements authorized by the FDA are safe to consume in moderation. If you have concerns, you should see your doctor on how and when to use sugar substitutes in a balanced diet.