Frequently, students and clients ask my opinion of sugar substitutes. So having recently read an article from ACE (American Council on Exercise) on this subject and the upcoming holidays with all the desserts, I think this is a good topic to write about.
White sugar is a processed “food” that is high in calories and contains no nutrients. It is associated with high insulin levels, diabetes (all the side effects resulting from diabetes), obesity, tooth decay, cancer and more. Sugar causes your body to react a certain way chemically and if you have insulin resistance, diabetes, or pre-diabetes your body does not use the sugar as expected. Sugar substitutes are chemically different and do not contain a form of sugar, therefore they it does not produce the insulin response that sugar does. The problem is that most sugar substitutes are chemicals and not foods.
Sugar substitutes can be divided into four categories:, natural sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and novel sweeteners. Let’s look at each group in a little detail.
Natural Sweeteners:. Natural sweeteners are often advertised as better options for sugar because they come from real food and may contain small amounts of nutrients. Some examples of natural sweeteners are honey, agave nectar, molasses,and fruit juices, etc. All these contain about the same amount of calories as white sugar, will increase blood sugar levels, and can lead to tooth decay just like white sugar.
Artificial Sweeteners:. Artificial sweeteners are often called synthetic sugar substitutes. Most of these are chemical substances made in a lab. They are much sweeter than white sugar and require smaller amounts for a sweet flavor. Some examples of artificial sweeteners are sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin, etc. These substitutes are most often used in “sugar- free” foods. Numerous side effects have been reported with the use of artificial sweeteners including the possible increased risk of some cancer.
Sugar Alcohols:. Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables or may be synthetic. These types of sweeteners are less sweet than white sugar and contain calories but less calories than sugar. Because of their chemical makeup, they do no not cause as much of a blood sugar rise as sugar. Some examples offor sugar alcohols are xylitol, erythritol and sorbitol. The side effects of sugar alcohols are gas, bloating and diarrhea.
Novel Sweeteners:. Stevia is in this category. Stevia comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. The FDA has not approved stevia leaves or their extracts for use as food additives. There is some concern aboutthat the effect this form of stevia has on blood sugar control, cardiovascular and renal systems, and fertility. The FDA has approved an isolated chemical from stevia. This form of stevia contains no calories.
As a fitness professional, I always recommend reducing sugar intake. Sugar is known to increase inflammation, encourage weight gain, promote tooth decay, and cause problems with controlling blood sugar and all the problems associated with that. Sugar substitutes may seem to be a logical alternative, but that does not address the root of the problem. I recommend making healthy food choices that are unprocessed as well as low in calories.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.