Understanding more about sugar and sweeteners can be very important to your health. Most people, including experts, would agree that a great way to improve health is to decrease your sugar intake. Cutting back on sugar would decrease your intake of calories that can cause excess weight as well as your chances of getting diabetes – both very serious problems in the U.S. as well as other areas.
Childhood diabetes has increased tenfold since 1985 and it is predicted that if this trend continues, one out of every three children born will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
About 65% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. And in the past 25 years obesity in children has more than doubled.
The average American ingests over 150 pounds of sugar annually!
Artificial sweeteners have been hailed at the great solution to replace sugar, however more and more information is coming to light that these alternatives are unsafe and even worse than sugar.
But what if there was an naturally sweet herb that has been used safely for decades in other areas of the world that could replace sugar? Well there is and it has finally started to catch fire in the U.S. It’s called Stevia.
Using stevia as an all-natural alternative to sugar works fabulously well and has many benefits!
Stevia rebaudiana, is derived from a plant in the chrysanthemum family grown primarily in South America and Asia. It’s sweetening qualities are complex molecules called steviosides. They are glycosides and make stevia up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. These glycosides don’t get absorbed into the body, they just pass through leaving no calories.
The advantages of using stevia are numerous. In its pure form, it’s non-caloric and doesn’t affect glucose levels, an advantage for diabetics as well as those suffering from candida. Also, it has no carbohydrates or fat, so it’s great for dieters, especially those watching carb intake. Unlike artificial sweeteners, high quality stevia has little aftertaste when measured properly. It has no known side effects like some chemical sweeteners and has been safely consumed around the world for decades.
With the widespread use of sugar and artificial sweeteners at dangerous levels, stevia is a welcome option for those who want to use more natural ingredients with no known side effects, no calories, no carbs, no fat and no adverse effect on glucose levels.
The website www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, under the direction of the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine and National Center of Biotechnology Information, offers abstracts from stevia studies that indicate it may also aid in lowering blood pressure and regulating glucose levels.
Imagine, a sweetener with no side effects except perhaps good ones, complete with potential blood sugar-lowering properties! That’s stevia!
IMPORTANT! All Stevia products are not the same.
I have been investigating various Stevia products and have found some very important facts that you should be aware of regarding Stevia – mostly that many of the Stevia products on the market contain other ingredients than just stevia.
For example: Stevia in the Raw is mostly Maltodextrin.
You may have never have heard of this food ingredient before, or you may have heard a lot. Either way, you most likely have ingested it many times throughout your life. Pick up 5 things in your kitchen with a label and read the ingredients list. Chances are a couple of those labels have maltodextrin in them. You’ll often find it in salad dressings, frozen yogurt, spice mixes, Cheetos, candy, baked goods, fat-free and sugar free products. You’ll even find it in meats, nutrition bars and many meal replacement shakes like Ensure and Advocare. There’s been a lot of hype about MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils, but maltodextrin is found in even more foods, yet is still fairly under the radar.
Maltodextrin is just as bad, sometimes worse, than sugar. Easily absorbed carbs like maltodextrin and sugar get into your bloodstream fast and are often simply stored as fat.
Truvía is another stevia-based sugar substitute developed jointly by The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill. It is distributed and marketed by Cargill as a tabletop sweetener as well as a food ingredient. Truvía is made of rebiana, erythritol, and natural flavors. Because it comes from the stevia plant, Cargill classifies it as a natural sweetener. Since its launch in 2008, Truvía has become the second best-selling sugar substitute in the United States.
Truvía’s ingredients are erythritol (a sugar alcohol found naturally in small amounts in various fruits such as grapes and melons), stevia leaf extract and natural flavorings.
Erythritol is a naturally-occurring substance found in many fruits; however since it is present in such small amounts (less than .005% by weight) it is impractical to produce erythritol commercially simply by obtaining it through natural sources. Cargill manufactures Truvia’s erythritol by processing corn into a food grade starch which is then fermented with yeast to create glucose and then processed further to create erythritol. Whoa!
So much for all of the healthy new products coming onto the market. Turns out they are mostly manufactured by the Big Food Corps just cashing in on the peoples desire to become more healthy. Downside of Capitalism. Guess people need to really research products more and just not read the hype.
MORE WAYS TO REPLACE SUGAR AND SWEETENERS NATURALLY:
While there are numerous natural sugars/sweeteners available such as honey, agave, coconut palm sugar and others, most of these are fairly high in sugar content. On the glycemic index (GI), sugar is rated at 100. Honey and maple syrup are both around 50. Coconut palm sugar is a 35 and agave is below that even though agave has a high fructose content.
Stevia is at zero, which is ideal, but many people have issues with the taste. Yacon Syrup is another good option as it too is at zero, and I covered info about this below.
Another great option is Monk Fruit or otherwise known as Luo Han Guo. Again beware of many forms of this sweetener being called Monk Fruit, but mostly containing a sugar alcohol such as maltodextrine or erythritol.
Monk Fruit is also a zero on the GI and one of the most exciting new sweeteners to emerge in the last few years. The plant is native to the Guangxi province in southwestern China. Luo Han means monk and Guo means fruit – thus Monk Fruit.
I found a source of Monk Fruit without sugar alcohols made by Virgin Extracts ™ and you can buy it on Amazon – here’s the link:
There’s a new (at least new to me) natural sweetener you can try. It’s called Yacón syrup . Click on it and the link takes you to the Wikipedia entry about it. But in short, it is extracted from the roots of the yacón plant. The syrup is made with a similar process to maple syrup.
People in South America have eaten yacón for centuries because of its nutritional properties, few calories and low glycemic index.
The FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides sugars) in yacón aren’t fully digested. The body treats them as soluble fiber and they pass into the gut where they provide beneficial bulk helping the movement of waste through the intestine. As well, I am told that they promote the fermentation of beneficial bacteria in the gut. As a result, they provide only about one third the calories of sugar.
Another huge benefit is that yacón is almost a zero on the glycemic index, making it suitable for diabetics. Tests have also shown other benefits including regulation of blood sugar and insulin levels and improvement in cholesterol levels.
You can order it on Amazon. It looks like a dark honey, but is about half as sweet as honey (and way lower than honey on the Glycemic Index). No bitterness or aftertaste. I am quite enjoying this new discovery!