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Navigating Sweeteners

Jul 22, 2014

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It’s hard out there for someone who likes something sweet, especially if you have blood sugar issues. For years we have been told that an artificial “no calorie” sweetener will do the trick, have your cake and eat it too! However, the amount of research is growing that not only do artificial sweeteners cause weight gain they can be harmful to brain health. One of the main problems with artificial sweeteners is they are made from chemicals that wreck havoc on our neurons. If you would like to learn more about aspartame here is an interesting article by Dr. Mercola.

So how do we get some sweetness in our lives without causing harm to our bodies? Here are some options: 

Food sweeteners: sweetening with whole foods is ideal as they contain the precious fiber that slows down sugar absorption. An added bonus is that they are filled with nutrients that are typically refined out of sugar sources.

1)    DATES are a wonderful option as they are an excellent source of fiber, folic acid, B vitamins including: niacin, B6, riboflavin, thiamine, and pantothenic acid; and minerals such as copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Dates also contain a special soluble fiber called Beta-D-glucan fiber, which has been shown to decrease the body’s absorption of cholesterol, and slow or delay absorption of glucose helping to keep blood sugar levels even.  (Glycemic Index, GI= 42)

2)   BANANAS are low glycemic and provide other nutrients as well. Excellent source of Potassium, vitamin B6, Vitamin C, fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, biotin, and carbohydrates. Protects against heart disease and strokes, lowers blood pressure with high potassium. Because of high pectin content bananas are very soothing to the gastrointestinal tract. (GI= 40-50 depending on ripeness)

Other natural sweeteners include:

3)   MAPLE SYRUP can be used as a natural sweetener in recipes, darker varieties are preferred for better nutrient profiles, and it may have anti-cancer, antibacterial, and anti-diabetic properties1. The minerals manganese and zinc are also abundant in maple syrup as well as many anti-oxidants. (GI=54)

4)   RAW UNFILTERED HONEY has an impressive vitamin profile, with B complex, A, C, D, E, K as well as a wide range of minerals. Honey also contains many enzymes and has shown to have antimicrobial and antibacterial factors. Antioxidants in honey may aid in fighting cancer, heart disease and other degenerative diseases. (GI=50)

Lowest glycemic index:

5)   STEVIA comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. You can either get the whole plant green powder or the more refined white powder. Be careful to look for other additives in the white powders, sometimes they contain maltodextrin or dextrose. Stevia is very concentrated you only need a very small amount; definitely play with it until you find what works for you. Even though this is a zero calorie sweetener, in excess it can cause problems like any sweetener. Your body will still produce insulin in the anticipation of glucose because of the sweet taste, and when there is no glucose there is excess insulin floating around. So like anything, practice moderation. (GI=0) 

6)   XYLITOL is a sugar alcohol, and no, it will not get you drunk. It is a natural sugar alcohol commonly sourced from corn, be sure to get non-GMO. Xylitol won’t raise you blood sugar and can be useful in reducing Candida symptoms. Just be sure to test in moderation as excess can lead to stomach cramping and occasional diarrhea. (GI-12)

While it is nice to have a list of sweeteners that we can use remember that moderation is key, especially for maple syrup, honey, stevia and xylitol. Even though there are some health properties to these sweeteners they are still sugar. Try to eat whole foods that are naturally sweet, some yummy fruits that are in season right now are peaches, strawberries and plums! There are many of nature’s candies to enjoy.


Contributed by: Heather DiMambro, Certified Nutrition Consultant

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Heather DiMambro provides nutritional guidance to individuals looking to improve their health with the power of nutrition. If you are interested in one on one counseling with Heather you can make an appointment for your free 20-minute intro phone call by clicking here.

 

1University of Rhode Island (2010, Mar 25). Pure maple syrup contains medicinally beneficial compounds, pharmacy researcher finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from this article. 

 



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