The temptation of sweets and goodies, cakes and candies surrounds us all the time. It’s like a constant seduction that is very difficult to overcome simply because we don’t want too! But ever since the human race discovered that too much sugar can be very damaging to our health, we have been constantly trying to eliminate it from our diet. As those attempts have been unsuccessful, the creative mind of our species has come up with many alternatives to feed the sweet tooth!
Many of these alternatives are frequently the subject of hot debate due to the supposed side effects and now to add to our confusion, there are many versions available in the market. The popular ones can be classified into:
- Nutritive sweeteners (contain some calories)
- Non Nutritive sweeteners (contain NO calories)
- Agave nectar: Agave nectar is a natural juice extracted from agave a plant found in Mexico (the same plant that’s processed into tequila). Agave nectar is 42 percent sweeter than white sugar but has the same caloric value. Its core supposed benefit is from the fact that it does not raise the insulin rapidly.
- Lo Han Guo: It is a fruit based product of Chinese origin. It is 30 times sweeter than the sugar and hence should be used in very small quantities thus making it very low calorie. But it is not freely available. Also, it has a shelf life of 2 years only after which it deteriorates rapidly.
- Sugar alcohols: They are alcohol based sweetener often used in the jams and jellies which require heat. They pass through the tract without getting digested. They are naturally found in many fruits and can be commercially produced by adding hydrogen to sucrose and fructose. Being heat stable, they are extensively used for baking. But when passing through the intestine some people report flatulence and rumbling. Examples:- Sorbitol and Xylitol.
- Stevia: One of the latest to hit the market, Stevia is made from an herb native to Paraguay. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar with very little calories. To put that into context, a teaspoon of refined Stevia powder is about the same as a cup of sugar in terms of sweetening ability. It is a seemingly healthier and more environmentally friendly solution for your sweet tooth. However it is still being tested for side-effects.
Non Nutritive sweeteners
- Saccharine: It was discovered 100 years ago. It is a low calorie sweetener. However it came into controversy after some negative reports in lab mice experiments which reported a rise in bladder tumors. However, more than 30 human studies have been conducted with saccharin and no adverse health effects have been reported as of yet.
- Sucralose/Splenda: It is made by attaching chlorine to sucrose which creates a product on average 600 times sweeter than table sugar, which theoretically will pass through the body without being metabolized. Over 100 studies have been conducted using sucralose in order to approve it as a food additive. No known side effects have been discovered as of yet.
- Aspartame: It was introduced in 1965. It is a low-calorie sweetener that is also 200 times sweeter than sucrose. Aspartame is made from two amino acids and being created in the lab has come under a lot of flak for its purported side effects.
At the end of the day nothing beats a healthy whole grain, non-processed food diet because avoiding sweets is just a patch on the bigger issue of living in harmony with nature. Eating fresh natural produce is the only solution to being healthy and keeping the weight down.