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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Skinny on Sweeteners


“Added sugar,” “naturally occurring sugar,” “sugar substitutes,” and more! Oh sweet confusion! But don’t fret. Heather K. Jones, RD The Diet P.I. is here to help you sort out the sugars!

Naturally Occurring Sugars:

Naturally occurring sugars are those which are an inherent part of a food or drink—and also help explain why some foods just naturally taste sweeter than others. Take, for example, the difference between fruits and veggies. Many fruits have more naturally occurring sugars (called fructose) than veggies, causing them to taste sweeter, even without the addition of anything to step up the sweetness. And it’s A-ok to enjoy foods with naturally occurring sugar without guilt, since you also get the benefit of vitamins and minerals that are part of the natural makeup.

Added Sugars:

Added sugars are sugars that are just as they sound—added to foods or drinks, not found naturally in them. Processed foods and beverages with a lot of calories from added sugars can be nutrition bombs, since you end up investing a lot of calories, and get little benefit for your body in return. Be on the lookout for added sugar by reading the ingredient label of drinks or foods. Sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (milk sugar), glucose, maltose, and dextrose are popular forms of sugar you might see added. Other “sweet clues” for added sugar are: brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, syrup, fruit juice concentrate, invert sugar, cane juice, and malt syrup.


Natural Sugars:

There is nothing wrong with a little sugar, the problem is we eat WAY too much of it. Moderation is key. Limit yourself to around ten teaspoons (40 grams) or less of sugar per day. And because the closer to nature your food is, the better, stick with minimally processed sugar choices—think honey, raw sugar, real maple syrup, and molasses. (Agave, by the way, is not the best choice. While it comes from the blue agave plant, it is processed to form a syrup or nectar, and nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (Karo) syrup.)


Sugar Substitutes:

Low- and no-calorie sweeteners are everywhere. Grocery store shelves are crammed with products labeled "reduced sugar" and "no added sugar," but buyers should be beware…


Sucralose (Splenda) is sucrose (sugar) chemically combined with chlorine. Splenda’s controversial “made from sugar so it’s tastes like sugar” marketing slogan is technically true, but very misleading, as the final chemically-altered product contains no sugar.

Aspartame (Equal) is a synthetic sweetener made by combining two amino acids. It appears to be safe, however, a small amount of people may develop headaches after ingesting it, and it should be avoided if you have the rare disorder phenylketonuria (PKU).

Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol) are safe, but they are poorly digested and may cause a laxative effect or gas and bloating if consumed in large amounts. 

• Acesulfame (Sweet One, Sunett) is a synthetic chemical that has not been adequately tested. It might be safe, but more research is needed to tell.

Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low) is a synthetic chemical that caused an increased risk of bladder cancer in the only human study to date. More testing is needed.

Stevia (Sweet Leaf, Honey Leaf, Truvia, PureVia, SweetLeaf, OnlySweet, Stevia In The Raw) is an extract from a shrub that grows in South America. For safety reasons, the FDA does not allow Stevia to be used as an ingredient in food; it can, however, be sold as a supplement (the rules for supplements are not as stringent as for food). Although Stevia is promoted as a natural alternative to synthetic sweeteners, it may or may not be safe; more research is needed to tell.

The sweet bottom line: A small amount of any low- and no-calorie sweetener is probably not problematic for most people, but if you want to play it safe (and I know I do!), a clean and natural diet free of artificial sweeteners is the way to go. Stick with minimally processed real sugar, and just eat less (a lot less) of it. And, of course, the absolute best way to satisfy your sweet tooth is with good old-fashioned whole fruit!




Need more help building a healthy lifestyle that works for you? Take my free 3-minute
Diet Type test and find out how your personality affects your health and food choices.

Happy healthy eating!
Heather K. Jones, RD The Diet P.I.

45 comments:

V said...

I love this! I used to use tons and tons of Splenda until I started thinking carefully about the use of artificial ingredients and chemicals in processed foods. Then I realized I'd be a lot better off adjusting my palate to less sweet food items than trying to find a way to make food sweeter for free (calorie-wise).

I try not to add sugar to things anymore, but when I find it necessary (plain greek yogurt? Yuck!), I use honey or raw sugar. Thanks for giving us the skinny on sweeteners!

janet k said...

What a great post!!!

hobbyhungry said...

This is probably the best explanation on sweeteners that I have seen yet. Thank you for sharing!

The Ungerer Clan said...

Love this information and it is by far the best I have read. What is hard for me is I have two type 1 diabetic sons. They tell us to use Splenda. It is hard to choose right when you have health issues involved :/

wifeandmommie said...

Awesome information! I'm making the switch to less processed and more from scratch meals & treats. I'm saving this post so I can refer back to it. Thank you!!

Lindsay said...

Thank you so much for this information! My husband and I have been trying learn more about the clean eating lifestyle, but were a bit confused when it came to sugar. Now we know!

Anonymous said...

I see you said to limit sugar intake to 40g - would that include fruit? Or just additional sugar? Because you say that you can enjoy fruit without guilt, but I find that I'm always having to cut out fruit (I feel guilty eating too much), because a piece of fruit can have 10-15g of sugar. And a few pieces of fruit in and you're over your intake for the day! Help! Thanks (:

Anonymous said...

I would keep away from all these man made artificial sweeteners,if you want to sweeten something use a little honey, maple syrup, agave or a small amount of dark brown sugar.

cllcraft said...

Thank you for this post! I've had concerns about this very issue. Last week a famous Dr. show announced that using artificial sweetners was safe and that the "myths" about using them had no supporting data/studies to say otherwise. How irresponsible is this? Thank you for your straight forward information!

frostys mom said...

Great info! what about coconut palm sugar that Dr Oz was touting as a low glycemic index alternative??

Anonymous said...

What about raw agave nectar?

jeannie herpolsheimer said...

I have been wondering about the difference in Sucanat and Rapurda. Hopefully I spelled these names correct.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone respond to these?

Anonymous said...

I had problems from Splenda, emercency/explosive bm's for months... quit using Splnda (was up tp 4-6 packets/day), within 4 days I was all better!

Ashley said...

Amen! If we just eat real, unprocessed foods in moderation and get our bodies up and moving we'll all be alright! It's not always about a number on a scale or the size of jeans but rather the condition of your heart and lungs - no artifical sweetner is going to help those.

My Part of the Sky said...

The body craves three things: sugar, salt and fat. Artificial sweeteners do NOT aid in weight loss because while the tongue or palate may have accepted it, the brain didn't. Thus, the fake stuff isn't satisfying. That's why you are looking for something else in an hour. Eat some 'good' chocolate, just not the whole bag.

daniellaprice30 said...

You've mentioned so many sugar alternatives that might work for me. However, do you know if artificial sweeteners during pregnancy is safe?

Anonymous said...

TrueVia and PureVia are not pure stevia-erythritol is the main ingredient in TrueVia and isomalt in PureVia. Complaints have been made about the advertising of these products as stevia which they are not-TrueVia contains rebiana, and PureVia Reb A both of which are derived from stevia. The mfgs of TrueVia have changed their commercials to state "born from the stevia plant". There are patent pendings for the processing of rebiana and Reb A.

Susan said...

http://www.draxe.com/sweet-addiction-artificial-sweeteners-not-so-sweet-after-all/

You might like to check this out and Dr. Axe's site in general for great nutrition and health information.

Anonymous said...

so I am a stevia user and a stevia liquid user. I have yet to acquire the taste for coffee and oatmeals minus the sugar added. Is there a brand of real sugar that is acceptable? What so I look for?

Stacy said...

I tend to avoid all artificial sweeteners. I'm one of those few people who gets migrains from Aspartame. I also get stomach cramps from splenda (and it is so cloying it makes me shudder anyway). While I'll occasionally eat something with a sugar alcohol in it, I go for the real thing if I'm going to have sweet and I read labels on everything that's sweet.

Did you know that pretty much all gum (even the non-sugar-free stuff) has aspartame in it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not using artificial sweeteners in your recipes! Splenda makes me so ill, and it sneaks its way into everything - even non diet foods, medications, and most recently, the water supply!

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Anonymous said...

I will say, when it comes to xylitol, it isn't "artificial" as in man-made. The human body actually produces small (read: VERY SMALL)amounts of the stuff, as do plants. Xylitol is very good for your teeth, and some research suggests it could be an aide in preventing cancer (although, very true, too much of it isn't so great on the digestive system, but everything in moderation, eh?) It's the only non-sugarbased sweetener I use. I don't trust any artificial or highly processed. I mean, come on, people: Splenda is made in a lab and aspartame turns into formaldehyde in your body! Just use your heads. :)

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Laura said...

I agree with an earlier comment about TruVia. I love my stevia extract, am currently using NuNaturals pure liquid vanilla stevia (it's one of the few I can find with an alcohol base instead of vegetable glycerin). However, I had bad exereience with TruVia and tell all my friends to stop using it: bad bloating and gas, insomnia, constant mind fog, all of which went away shortly after stopping TruVia. If you look into it more you will find it is not true stevia, and if you've tried it and don't like it please don't discount stevia, try a purer source instead!

seriouslysassymama.com said...

This was great. I just learned all the different names the artificial sweeteners use on the labels from my dad's diabetes magazine. They have all sorts of different names.

suzi kaplan olmsted said...

While they are mentioned here in the piece, the discussion of sugar alcohols is pretty anemic. I also notice that there is not one comment about them. I hate the taste of stevia, and I'm not a big fan of sucralose (on its own) or aspartame. Both xylitol and erythritol, however, are great. They are naturally occurring, not synthetic, they are low in calories and good for your teeth, and THEY TASTE LIKE REGULAR SUGAR. Sure, when eaten in excess they can cause problems, but that's true of everything.

Fern White said...

Th bottom line is what can I use for my coffee I have to have it sweet. I was using truvia now I'm scared to