Are Sugar Substitutes Healthy?
With many health warnings about the amount of sugar we consume these days, it is not a surprise that many people are looking to use a sugar substitutes for baking, for coffee & other beverages but are sugar substitutes healthy? When the body metabolises sugar, the by-products of this process are very damaging to all the structural proteins within our bodies as well as having an impact on virtually every single system and gland within our bodies.
The increase in sugar substitutes, I believe, is because artificial sweeteners, whilst used extensively in beverages, are not really a relevant form of sweetener for deserts, cakes and other baked goods.
Natural forms of sugar include honey, raw cane sugar, maple syrup, fruit and coconut nectar all have an impact on blood sugar levels. As soon as you ingest any form of sugar, insulin levels in the bloodstream increase in order to convert this sugar into energy or if it is not utilised for energy then sugar is converted into fat for storage. This process applies to all forms of sugar and therefore it is always prudent to use sugar in moderation.
Sugar is everywhere. It is found in cereals, processed foods, bread and in most foods that you can purchase in a grocery store. The reason is simple – sugar sells products. We feel satisfied, energised, comforted and good when we have had sugar-laden foods.
The last few decades have seen advancements in agriculture, transportation and mass production, which has made sugar cheap and readily available to anyone. However too much sugar is detrimental to the body which gave rise to a host of artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame.
Although low in calories, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, and natural sweeteners such as Stevia are not quite as harmless as one believes them to be. Used frequently these sweeteners will encourage your taste buds to want more sugar and can actually result in sugar cravings. Artificial sweeteners are man-made chemicals which are not recognised by the body and do require detoxification by the liver. As mentioned previously, they are suitable for beverages, but are not ideal for use in foods and a lot of experimentation will need to done in order to incorporate these for example into a cake. Enter sugar substitutes.
There are a whole array of sugar substitutes used in food these days but are sugar substitutes healthy? Examples include xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, honey, maple syrup and molasses and I am going to list some of these and their properties:
Honey is made by bees from the nectar that has been collected within flowers to feed the hive. Raw honey has a 50% content of fructose and 50% content of glucose which makes it easier for the body to metabolise than fructose (fruit sugar) on its own. Honey does provide nutritional benefits containing some B vitamins and of course other types of honey, such as Manuka Honey, display antibacterial properties, but make no mistake, honey is still a sugar. Some cheaper blended honeys may even contain corn syrup or glucose syrup. You should also not introduce honey to children under 12 months for risk of Clostridium infection.
Maple syrup is the concentrated sap from the Canadian Maple tree and usually available in Grade A which is paler in colour and Grade B which is darker and more nutritious. It does have minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium and has fewer calories than honey. Maple syrup is not a sugar substitute for diabetics as it can affect the sugar levels in the bloodstream.
Wood alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol are derived from numerous types of fibres within plants and fruits such as oats, corn and raspberries. They are perfectly fine for occasional use, but they can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea when used frequently.
Palmyra sugar also known as Palmyra Jaggery or Palm Sugar is the crystallised nectar obtained from the flowers of the Palmyra palm which grows in Sri Lanka and India. Palmyra Tree Blossom Sugar is nutrient dense and is a great source of B vitamins. One teaspoon of Palmyra Blossom Sugar provides 130% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin B-12; 200% of Vitamin B-6 and over 600% of Vitamin B-1.
Palmyra Tree Blossom Sugar, in comparison to sugar, has a Glycemic Index of 40, sugar has an index of 100. The Glycemic Index is a rating for foods containing carbohydrates to show how quickly each food affects your sugar levels after ingestion. Refined sugar and processed foods have a higher Glycemic Index than wholemeal grains and pulses whose carbohydrates are broken down slowly.
SugaVida’s Organic Palmyra Tree Blossom Sugar has a deep, warm caramel flavour. You can use it as a direct substitute for recipes that call for sugar and often you can use half the amount suggested. It is organic, ethically sourced and a sustainable business for communities who farm this.
I don’t believe that there is any place in our diets for man-made chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame K. For those who require sugar substitutes within their diet and through food sources, Palm Sugar substitutes are the best of the bunch of sugar substitutes.