Healthy Natural Sweeteners

Ban sugar, ban carbs! As much as sugars and carbs may not be the best, guess what?! There is such a beast as GOOD (well kinda) sugars and GOOD carbs. I know I have already touched on the carbs in a prior blog so let's talk sugars!

Just a side note: Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. Foods with natural sugar have an important role in the diet of cancer patients and anyone trying to prevent cancer because they provide essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease

Sugar..... it's not good for you, it's like a drug, and it can seriously sabotage your diet and healthy lifestyle. So when making the natural sugar switch, what should you be stocking our cabinets with?

"The overall message is to switch to natural sugars, but eat less of them," said Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian Lori Zanini. So before you get into the different kinds of natural sugars, it's important to establish the limit to added sugar in general: "According to the American Heart Association, men should have no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and women should have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day."

"If you are looking at a food label, realize that 4 grams of sugars is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of sugar." So that means daily limit is about 1.5 teaspoons. "The average American eats about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day — yikes!"

What small amount of natural sugar is best — is there a clear winner? Should we dump out our maple syrup and go for coconut sugar? Apparently it's not as black and white as we thought.

"Whether honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar, none are substantially 'healthier' options, and all can raise blood sugar (aka blood glucose). So amount of these natural sugars are still key." So while one trendy natural sweetener may not be much better for you than another, there are still nuances to each. Basically, pick your poison based on your preferences for taste and nutrients. Let's take a look at Lori's insight to honey, molasses, maple, agave, and coconut sugar.

Honey

"Honey actually has slightly more calories per teaspoon than some of the other natural sweeteners (one teaspoon of honey has about 21 calories and 6 grams of carbohydrates) and is composed of fructose, along with other sugars (mainly glucose)," she said. "But it also has [antibacterial] benefits, especially if local and raw during cold and flu season."

Molasses

Have you tried using molasses yet? It's actually a great natural sweetener in small quantities. "Molasses, especially black strap molasses (now available at Trader Joe's) does contain some iron and calcium, which can be helpful, but it is certainly not recommended to get your iron and calcium this way; it's more of a bonus if you are going to have a small amount."

Maple Syrup

There's some more reasoning to choose maple syrup, especially if you're on the Low-FODMAPS diet. "Maple syrup is about 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. It does have some zinc and manganese. It is lower on the glycemic index, so may raise blood sugar less quickly compared to regular table sugar."

Coconut Sugar

"Coconut palm sugar is about 70-80 percent sucrose," she said. "Per teaspoon, it is still about 15 calories and 4 grams of sugar, so while it is trendy, certainly don't feel like it's a good idea to eat extra. Sure, it has magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, but not enough to make it a 'good source' or any of these."

Agave

This natural sweetener is not as natural as you might think. "Agave nectar is slightly lower on the glycemic index scale than white, refined sugar, but it will still raise your blood sugar. Agave is actually quite processed, which greatly minimizes and eliminates its potentially beneficial compounds. It's also sweeter than white, refined sugar and contains more calories."

Article: Popsurgar.com - Which Natural Sweetener Is Healthiest?

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Atlanta, GA | Ashley Deka | thinkhealthbyashyd@gmail.com 

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