The poem “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Sugar is Sweet…” should have ended with “…But it’s not good for you!” Refined sugars (refined being the key word) are in so many of our foods. They will appear on the ingredient labels as white or brown sugars, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, or syrups and fill your stomach with empty calories while you still feel hungry. This causes you to overeat, adding incremental calories as well as stretching the stomach uncomfortably.
During the digestive process, these not-so-sweet sweeteners will artificially raise then drop the blood sugar affecting the pancreas, liver and adrenal glands while they overwork to try to stabilize the blood sugar levels.
These sugars are processed as energy and when your body has maxed out on the energy, stores them as fat cells, which few love.
Additionally, as the body processes these sugars, it depletes itself of necessary nutrients such as chromium and magnesium, which can impact arthritis and osteoporosis, and B vitamins which you need for energy and mood, in an effort to absorb and process them.
Given the sweet tooth most of us have, are there sugar substitutes that are ‘better’ for us? Today there are a number of sugar-free alternatives available with varying ‘gut’ reactions, all of which use non-sugar sweeteners.
Xylitol is a substitute that sounds artificial but is from common fruits, vegetables, oats, mushrooms, birch, berries and corn husks, and that actually has some beneficial attributes not only for your waistline but for your health.
It has 2/3rds of the calories, helps bad breath, and is an alkalizing agent which means it creates an undesirable environment for bacteria to grow in the digestive tract and throughout the body. It has a similar effect as a dietary fiber in digestion.
It is, however, a known FODMAP food, which many people suffering from long term conditions are especially sensitive to. It really is up to testing it on yourself to see if any reaction occurs such as bloating/gas, or change in bowels.
Stevia is a sugar substitute that is made from a plant, has numerous health benefits, and is sold under different trade names. Not only does this herb aid with weight loss, diabetes control, and oral health, it has been identified as building strong bones, aids in skin care and prevents certain forms of cancer. It also contains glycosides that aid in eliminating sodium from the body.
Some studies of this plant have shown to increase healthy levels of cholesterol (HDL) and reducing triglycerides and LDL. It’s also been found to reduce bacteria in the mouth, and aids in preventing gingivitis and cavities, all while being actually sweeter than sugar to the taste buds!
The caution to using Stevia is it’s fairly new, so there haven’t been the long-term effect studies yet to overall health.
Splenda was developed 33 years ago and has been extensively studied for the past 18 years. It’s actually derived from sugar, but the process strips out most of the calories leaving an intensified sweetness so you only need to use half as much.
While this is excellent for the taste buds and waistline, there are studies that caution that all may not be sweet with this product. Some studies show it’s been identified as creating an environment positive for bacterial growth and may impact the effectiveness of some medications.
While all may not be ‘sweetness and light’ with refined sugars or their substitutes, all agree that moderation is the key and there is a definite tipping point to too much of a good thing.