A diet high in sugar can lead to numerous health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hyperactivity. When you want to add a little sweetness to your life there are better options out there and some to stay away from.
Sweeteners to Avoid:
1. White/cane sugar– made from the sugar cane plant, over 99% of the nutrients are lost during processing leaving just empty calories.
2. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)/corn sugar/glucose-fructose– HFCS is made from corn where some of its glucose is turned into fructose for the desired sweet taste. It is found in most commercial and processed foods. HFCS has been linked to diabetes, obesity, and is extremely addictive.
3. Aspartame- an artificial sweetener which is metabolized into methyl alcohol and formaldehyde in the human body and has been reported to cause headaches, dizziness, blindness, and seizures, among other symptoms. It may be found in diet sodas, candies, gum, and toothpaste.
4. Other Artificial Sweeteners (Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), Sucralose)- Artificial sweeteners are commonly used as calorie free sugar substitutes. The research is inconclusive on whether or not there are negative effects with normal use. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to wait around for scientists to determine if they are safe or not when there are lots of healthier sweeteners out there.
Better Choices for Sweeteners:
1. Stevia- a natural calorie sweetener made from the stevia herb. Stevia can be purchased in a powder or concentrated liquid form.
2. Xylitol- a natural sugar alcohol which is calorie free. Found in natural chewing gums as studies have shown it may help with tooth decay.
3. Coconut sugar– made from coconuts, this sugar has a very low glycemic index rating. It has a delicious flavour similar to brown sugar and is great in recipes.
4. Sucanat– a non refined cane sugar, it is made from dried cane juice using minimal processing, therefore it still contains most of the nutrients found in sugar cane
5. Blackstrap Molasses– is a by-product of processing sugar cane into refined sugar. During the processing of sugar cane, all of the nutrients are removed from the refined sugar and left in the molasses; therefore, it is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. Always choose organic molasses to avoid the chemicals commonly used in cane sugar processing.
6. Honey– made by bees using the nectar from flowers. Honey has antimicrobial actions and can help you fight off a cold. There are numerous local farmers that make honey so make sure your honey is from the Ottawa area.
7. Maple Syrup– Not Aunt Jemima but REAL maple syrup supplies essential nutrients such as thiamine, manganese and zinc. The Ottawa Valley is the maple syrup capital of Canada and it is maple syrup season around March-April so get out there and get some fresh, real syrup!
Note: Sugar is still sugar, so if you are diabetic or have been advised to limit your sugar intake, please use moderation and common sense when using any sweeteners.
Rachel Hewitt, BSc, RHN, NNCP, is a Nutritionist in Ottawa, Ontario. For more information, please visit her website at www.rachelhewitt.com.