What is the Healthiest Alternative to Sugar?
Everyone loves using sugar on their food. Who doesn’t get the itch for something sweet every now then? But recent studies have shown sugar is not the best additive to use to sweeten up a dish. With a number of calories coming from sugar each day (there are 15 calories in each teaspoon) it is always a good idea to find alternatives to sugar. Some of the best sugar alternatives, according to Bon Appetite Magazine, include:
- Agave Syrup
- Organic Molasses
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Mesquite Powder
But those aren’t the only kinds of sugar alternatives.
Is Stevia a Healthy Sugar Alternative?
Stevia can be a bit of a sticky subject when it comes to safety. There is a highly purified extract of stevia called Reb A which has been shown to be over 200 times sweeter than sugar, yet, does not raise blood sugar levels in the body.
It may sound like the perfect substitute, but a study in the 1980s linked stevia with adverse effects on fertility and reproductive development, showing numerous signs of genetic mutations in the babies born. Although it may not sound so great anymore, the makers of Truvia and PureVia performed another study which they showed to the FDA. It showed that Reb A was safe, but whole leaf stevia plants are not safe for consumption.
The bottom line is, if you are buying stevia make sure the ingredients list Reb A. If not, don’t buy it.
Is Xylitol a Healthy Sugar Alternative?
Xylitol has not been shown to be a safe alternative to the sugar we are used to using in America, although it should be pointed out xylitol is also a sugar, albeit one that has 30 percent less calories than regular sugar.
Even though xylitol is a sugar, it has been shown to improve dental health significantly.
Is Erythritol a Healthy Sugar Alternative?
Erythritol may be the safest alternative to sugar. It has been shown to be about 60 to 80 percent as sweet as regular sugar and is used in a number of products already, mainly gum, baked goods and some beverages. Erythritol has been found to be a safe alternative to sugar, even when consumed on a daily basis. This could be because it is naturally made in plants and has been found to exist naturally in human tissue and body fluids, according to one study.
The best part about erythritol may be the calorie count. It contains no calories. It has also been shown to be an antioxidant as well.
Are Artificial Sweeteners a Healthy Alternative to Sugar?
So it comes down to the question of artificial sweeteners being healthier than actual sugar. Studies have shown, as talked about above, some of the artificial sweeteners are more safe than others.
Natural Sugar Alternatives: Agave vs Honey
People who want a more natural sugar alternative have been turning to honey and agave. But which one is the best?
Honey, which many Americans have been using as an alternative, has about one third the amount of sugar in a tablespoon compared to one teaspoon of sugar. The American Heart Association suggests limiting sugar intake to about six teaspoons for woman and nine teaspoons for a man. Meaning, two to three tablespoons of honey is the same as the suggested amount of sugar per day.
For agave, the health benefits are not present. Agave has fructose in it which is metabolized differently than other sugars and can lead to fatty deposits in the liver.
In the end, it is probably best to limit agave, honey and sugar from your diet, or at least stay under the recommended dosage per day according to the American Heart Association.
Date Sugar vs Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice sugar is made with brown rice and a culture that’s cooked to a syrup. It has a mild flavor similar to butterscotch and can be used for cooking, baking and in drinks. Be sure to not buy brands that have any corn syrup.
Date sugar is a whole food sweetener made of dried and pulverized dates. It is rich in iron, potassium and vitamins and the high fiber content slows absorption into the body. It can be used in baking but burns easily, so make sure you keep an eye on it.
Both the date sugar and the brown rice sugar are less likely to affect blood pressure than many other natural sweetener alternatives. They are both good alternatives and better than honey and agave.