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Sugar Substitutes [ How To Choose the Right One? ]

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It is a well-known fact that sugar is unhealthy. But yet, its sooo tasty… and it is so difficult to stop eating sweets, chocolate, ice cream, muffins and all those foods that contain sugar. Actually, I think that this is the worst part of following any diet: the sugar ban.

Thankfully, there are sugar substitutes: some of them are healthy and others… not really. In this blog post, we will share with you what kinds of alternative sweeteners exist on the market, what are they suitable for, and how to use them. So if you love your sugar snacks, keep reading.

What are the alternatives to sugar?

Nowadays, there are many substitutes for sugar, both healthy, unhealthy, natural, and synthetic. They can be divided into 5 separate categories:

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Are sugar alcohols (polyols) good for you?

They are considered to be carbs, which are naturally found in fruits and vegetables. They have fewer calories than the regular sugar, a very low glycemic index and are not fully digested. That’s why when you buy a product with sugar alcohols, substract half the grams of sugar alcohols listed on the label from the total carbs. [1]

Because of their poor digestion, polyols are very suitable for people with diabetes, but they are also less sweet than sugar. However, if you consume high doses of sugar alcohols, you may experience bloating and cramps, as those sweeteners ferment in the intestines. For that reason they are not suitable for people with IBS. [2]

The most popular sugar alcohols are:

  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol
  • Maltitol
  • Erythritol

What are the natural caloric sweeteners?

They are naturally derived sweeteners, which contain sugar, but have a slightly lower glycemic index and have properties which are beneficial to the overall health.  Keep in mind that their glycemic index is higher than the indexes of the other sweeteners, and that is the reason why they are not the best option for people with diabetes. [3]

The most popular ones are:

  • Honey: it can be solid or liquid (depending on the temperature), has antiseptic properties and can be used as an ingredient in homemade skincare recipes (for hair or face masks). As bees produce the honey, it is considered as an animal product and is not suitable for people who follow the vegan diet.
  • Agave: it is the vegan alternative of honey. It has mild effect on the blood sugar, and is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Maple syrup: its color may differ from light to dark brown. It is more liquid than the honey, and it does not have any healing properties. I, personally do not like the taste of maple syrup, because I find it too strong.
  • Coconut sugar: it is extracted from coconut palm trees. It is granulated and has a slight coconut aroma. Besides, it is rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Date sugar: it’s made from pulverized dates, which means that it’s insoluble and has strong taste of dates.

Are natural zero-calorie sweeteners good for you?

Those are not considered as carbohydrates and as the name suggests: have no calories. They also have glycemic index 0 and are great alternative alternative to sugar suitable for diabetics. I, personally, always reach for this type of sweeteners, as they have a long shelf life and are suitable for cooking and baking. [4] The most popular types are:

  • Monk fruit: it is 300 times sweeter than sugar. This is causing a problem with measuring the exact amount needed for sweetening foods. Fortunately, the brands which produce monk fruit sweetener add a bulking agent, to balance the sweetness. It can be found both in liquid and powder form. [5]
  • Stevia: purified stevia leaf extract can be up to 250 times sweeter than sugar, depending on the origin and concentration. [6] Some brands reduce the sweetness by adding other ingredients to the product. On the package, there is always information what amount of the sweetener equals 1 tablespoon of sugar. Just like the Monk fruit, stevia can be found both in liquid and powder form.

This sweetener is my preferred personal choice. I mainly use liquid stevia, as I can have more control over the amount that I put. It is twice cheaper than the Monk fruit, does not have aftertaste when used in moderation, and dissolves quickly in any liquids.

Do modified sugars raise blood sugar?

Those sugars are artificially created by combining starches and enzymes. Those sweeteners have a high glycemic index and are not suitable for people with diabetes. They have the same sweetness as sugar, as well as extended shelf life. Moreover, they are extremely cheap, and this is why they are widely used in the food industry for the production of processed foods.

  • Fructose corn syrup
  • Caramel

Are artificial sweeteners better than sugar?

They have a glycemic index 0, but not all of them are healthy. There is a wide variety of artificial sweeteners on the market, however, the most popular ones are:

  • Aspartame: It is 200 times sweeter than sugar but has a small number of calories. The aspartame is not suitable for cooking as it is not heat-stable (when heated it reduces its sweetness). Besides, various studies have looked into the health effects of aspartame and have shown concerns about sensitivity to this sweetener involving mood swings, neurological issues, and increased risk of cancer. [7]
  • Sucralose: It is 600 times sweeter than sugar, but has no calories. Also, it is very suitable for cooking and baking, as it is heat stable (does not lose its sweetness when heated). [8] The sucralose is ideal for diabetics, but sometimes the brands, which produce it, mix it with maltodextrin (which is a bulking agent), to reduce its sweetness. This is a problem because the maltodextrin has a very high glycemic index and makes the sweetener unsuitable for people with diabetes. [9] If you want to use sucralose, be sure to check the ingredient list on the package.
  • Saccharin: it is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but has a slightly unpleasant aftertaste. This is the reason why many people do not prefer it as their main sweetener. It is suitable for diabetics, but it loses its sweetness when heated. It is usually sold in tablets. [10]

If you want to substitute the sugar from your diet, our advice is to choose a naturally-derived sweetener. This way you will be sure that the product is clean and no chemicals were used in its production.

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