The evidence suggests sugar shouldn’t be a staple in our . But what are the best ? But we also live in a world where has deep emotional and cultural meaning, where we also embrace birthday cakes, holiday treats, traditional and special occasion desserts. When you couple that with the rise in refined carbohydrate (i.e. processed and manufactured food) availability, it’s not much of a surprise that over the last number of years, our appreciation for sugar has moved in a sharp upward trend. Interestingly, so have the rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune disease. These are delicious, but from a nutritional standpoint offer very little.
While we know the ‘white stuff’ is bad but what we don’t realise is that one, it’s very well hidden on the label and two, there are some great alternatives available to you! Read on to find out the what are the best Nutrition and Health Coaching Course! or if you would like to learn more about nutrition check out our
What are the best sugar substitutes: introduction
Over the last number of years, few have taken over our habits quite like sugar.
A note on carbohydrates:
All carbohydrates are composed of chains of single sugar units called saccharides. The best recognised is probably , which also plays a key role in production. We can classify carbohydrates into simple sugars (monosaccharides like , fructose and galactose, and disaccharides like sucrose), starches (longer units composed predominantly of and/or fibre (long chains of sugars that don’t get fully broken down by our bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our tracts). enzymes and instead are fermented by the
When we eat carbohydrates, they get broken down and carbohydrates contain a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates which helps with the process, slowing down the release of sugar into our bloodstream and managing our levels. Refined carbohydrates refer to carbohydrates that have been processed. The processing removes certain components like into sugars. Whole food sources of fibre so that these are and absorbed rapidly, sometimes raising blood levels as quickly and creating peaks and troughs in overall .
A note on energy production:
To understand the above, it’s worth mentioning what actually happens to the sugar units. Carbohydrates are broken down during mostly into , which is absorbed into our bloodstream and shuttled into our cells by . Once it enters the cell, is used to make ATP, the currency for all cells. A single unit can make many ATP molecules. While isn’t the only molecule to be able to do this, it’s the preferred source for cells.
The number 50
When it comes to sugar, the problem starts with our . Many of us consume a large amount of processed and/or packaged where the label can tactically mask sugar and dupe you into a false sense of security. Did you know that companies can choose from over fifty different names when it comes to sugar, artificial sweetener and even natural substitutes? The list is marked in order of most abundant to least abundant . So one tactic is to choose a couple of different ‘sugars’ on purpose and spread them across the list and in this way avoid placing it first on the list. Whether it’s due to sugars’ addictive properties or perhaps more just to meet consumer demand, there is a marked increase in ‘unlikely’ products that contain copious amounts of sugar.
It’s not just cake and biscuits! Flavoured yoghurt can carry as much as 19g of sugar per serving, tomato sauce can have up to 15g and even salad dressings often contain sugar. What blind’s us even more, are clever marketing terms like ‘no added sugar’, ‘natural’ or ‘organic’!
Dangers of Sugar
According to WHO, we should limit our daily sugar intake to just 6 teaspoons a day or circa 24 grams. However, it is estimated that the average Briton consumes circa close to 22 teaspoons daily! Not good at all especially when sugar wreaks havoc on your ! There are over 141 reasons sugar ruins your health! To list just a few:
- Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes
- Sugar can lower your immunity
- Sugar can inhibit vitamin and mineral absorption
- Excess sugar is stored as fat in the .
- Sugar can cause anxiety, inability to concentrate and hyperactivity
When it comes to inflammation and sugar, the poison is in the dose. A byproduct of production is the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), aka oxidants or free radicals. In general, the more ( ) consumed, the more ROS produced. A healthy has the ability to control both the amount of and the damage caused by ROS but overconsumption food and is associated with increased production of ROS and markers of inflammation, even in healthy people. However, it is exaggerated in people who are obese or have type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or metabolic syndrome. This is because there is a relationship between inflammation and sensitivity (source).
What are the Best Sugar Substitutes: Artificial Sweeteners
Anything artificial and not found in nature is best avoided full stop. To keep it very simple, ask yourself; if I can’t recognise the name on a label, how can I expect my to know what this is, let alone what to do with it? Some names to take note of:
- Aspartame – most commonly found in soda drinks
- Saccharin – a common artificial sweetener
- – There’s natural green leaf and then there’s white/bleached, for example, Truvia. Avoid the latter.
- Sucralose – For example, the Splenda you see in the shopping aisle.
Bottom line is if your body cannot process it, it is a to the .
What are the Best Sugar Substitutes: Natural Sugars
When asking what are the best does the item offer any real benefit (physical or otherwise) that you couldn’t get from an unsweetened source? , sweeteners that come from nature are always the first choice. As a basic rule always ask yourself
The main reason natural sugars are considered superior to highly refined sources has to do with micronutrients. As one example, contains vitamins A, B1, B6, B9, B12, C, D, and E, as well as minerals including calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon, iron, manganese, and copper. By contrast, table sugar has nothing to offer.
Natural, non-chemical sweeteners include the following:
- Raw – if you are going to consume , be sure to buy local and organic to make sure you get all the bang for your buck. Conventional store-bought can often be bulked up with high fructose corn or heavily processed.
- – kind of like marmite, you either love it or hate it. It is incredibly rich in and great for adding a brown sugar-like flavour to baking. Among the natural alternatives, this one is king packing a real bank for your nutrition buck!
- Date sugar, palm sugar, coconut sugar
- Fruit juice – be careful with this one. Yes, it’s natural, but removing the also leaves you open to consuming large amounts of fructose based sugar in one go. Stick to whole fruit where possible
- – like , many store brands are not true . Look for organic and grade B on the label.
- Cane sugar – Look for organic and fair trade.
- Green leaf – not to be confused with bleached products you might see in supermarkets. Green leaf comes in green powder form and has quite a mild sweetness.
The Poison is in the Dose
Overall, it is advisable to reduce sweeteners and sugar to a bare minimum because natural or not, too much is not good for your .
Here are some tips to help you decipher labels better:
- As mentioned above, remember that the are listed in order of abundance. The first item is the most abundant . So if a sweetener or a sugar is in the top three, you can assume that the product is high in sugar overall. Similarly, if you see a number of that fit into the next three points spread out over the whole list, it is probably best to avoid it.
- Check the total carbohydrate grams in the , then check the sugar grams. 1tsp of sugar is equivalent to about 4g so take note of how quickly it can add up to 6 tsp (24 grams)
- Look for that end in “-ose” or “-tol” – this means it’s a sweetener. For example: sucralose, , sucrose, fructose, maltose etc.
- Look for the words ‘sugar’, ‘nectar’, ‘’. While these terms represent natural sources, they are STILL sweeteners you should be aware of.
So in short – take WHO’s advice of 6 tsp per day / 24 grams. Combine it with the natural sources above for that perfect sweet spot.
A note on the research:
It’s important to point out that the connection between sugar and health is still a controversial topic from a research cause/effect standpoint. Part of this is because there are a lot of parties involved so the food and beverage industry has taken some aggressive actions. For example, among the current research studies, there a hundreds that are funded by key players in the industry and so show a result that skews in favour of the funding party. One tip, is you can now search PubMed by company name to see very quickly who funded the research.