So, you’ve found a sugar substitute that doesn’t have a weird aftertaste, works perfectly in your baked goods and is a hit with the family – but is it really healthier than sugar? Some of the big players in the alternatives market have comparable health risks to regular old sugar. Here’s what you need to know.
We know that sugar is an addictive substance – research has shown how it triggers the reward system in the brain and provokes a stronger response than cocaine – so it’s hardly surprising that so many of us are keen to find a substitute to satisfy our sweet tooth, without compromising our health. Unfortunately, some sweeteners are just as bad as the real thing – we’ll unpack the worst offenders, plus a few alternatives to use in moderation.
These are synthetic sugar substitutes for sugar and many of them add near-zero calories, making them attractive to those looking to lose weight. Take a look at a few of the types of artificial sweeteners:
- Acesulfame K
Gut issues: Artificial sweeteners can be hard for our digestive tract to process – and while some people may come out unscathed, others may experience bloating, constipation and diarrhoea after a brush with these sweeteners. On the more serious side of things, it can even lead to dysbiosis, which isa dysregulated gut microbiome – the consequences include increased risk of disease, inflammation and digestive issues. In fact, one study shows the integral role the microbiome plays in regulating the immune response to pathogens, so you won’t want to risk your gut health when choosing a substitute. Sugar alcohols have been reported to cause these gut issues, but xylitol may be tolerated a little better, so long as you don’t overdo it. Erythritol is another substitute which is easier on the gut, as the majority of it is absorbed by our small intestine, then excreted in our urine, giving our gut less of a rough time than other artificial sweeteners.
Sweetness: the sweetness levels of some artificial sweeteners can be through the roof, with some hundreds of times as intense as regular sugar – and this doesn’t go unnoticed to our taste buds. One of the consequences of artificial sweeteners is the effect it has on our sweetness meter. We can become accustomed to the intense taste, which in turn dulls our appreciation of the sweetness in fruits and veggies.
These sugar substitutes may seem healthier than table sugar or artificial sweeteners, but they’re still added sugars – some of which pack a sizeable dose of fructose. They are less heavily processed than other sweeteners and include the following:
- Maple syrup
- Agave nectar
Fructose: Don’t be fooled by the fact that these sweeteners are hailed as naturally sweet, a lot of natural sweeteners still pack a hefty fructose-punch. This stuff makes up 50% of table sugar, and considering it can’t be further broken down by our bodies and, as such, it has to be metabolised by our livers, it can cause a range of diseases to develop. In fact, the type 2 diabetes health crisis has been directly linked to fructose consumption, along with studies finding it responsible for the rapidly growing obesity rates. That’s why you want to keep the fructose content of your sugar substitute as low as possible. Agave nectar is one example of a substitute which knocks sugar out of the park for fructose content, packing a whopping 85% fructose content. Just because it’s natural, doesn’t make it healthy – remember, sugar is natural too.
Calories: Not all natural sweeteners are made alike, some pack even more calories than regular table sugar, which comes in at 48 calories per tablespoon. Honey, on the other hand, has 64 calories and corn syrup has 57 calories. But it is worth noting honey contains considerably more nutrients than sugar, like antioxidants and antibacterial properties – depending on the variety, of course. The extra calories aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind.
Best sugar alternatives
If you really want to sweeten up a meal, here are a few of our top choices when it comes to fructose content, taste and nutrition – but remember, moderation is key.
- Rice malt syrup: This sweetener, while high on the glycaemic index, is able to be metabolised by our whole bodies, so it won’t cause a build of visceral fat around the liver like fructose.
- Stevia: This natural sweetener has no fructose and is between 50 and 100 times sweeter than regular sugar, so you’ll only need to use a fraction of the stuff for equal sweetness.
- Maple syrup: With only 4% of its content dedicated to fructose, you could do worse when choosing a sugar alternative.
- Monk fruit sweetener: Due to its production process, this sweet alternative contains no fructose, no glucose, but packs lots of antioxidants.
We know ditching sugar can be hard, with many of us fighting withdrawal symptoms like headaches, anxiety, brain fog and exhaustion, along with navigating complicated emotions around eating.
That’s why the 8-Week Program is so effective, with a team of experts rallying behind you, you’ll have the tools to manage the difficult aspects of quitting sugar – including those intense cravings that pop up. Our program is one of the easiest ways to make sure your health goals become a reality; with a toolkit of craving-management techniques, ongoing support and exclusive access to recipes, meal plans and exciting content, there’s no better way to ditch the sweet stuff. So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, JOIN NOW!