Continued from Sugar Substitutes Compared: The Best and The Worst- Part I
Natural Sweeteners such as honey and agave:
Derived from a desert plant, agave nectar is a ‘natural’ sweetener with a slightly fruity flavour. A table spoon of agave and honey provide approx 60-80 cal. Since they are much sweeter in taste than refined sugar, we may need to add lesser amounts to satisfy the sweet tooth, so they surely offer a better upgrade from white sugar and are also often laced with iron and trace minerals. However, if you are a diabetic or are looking for calorie free sugar alternatives, both agave and honey show minimal beneficial effect on insulin levels.
Stevia leaf extracts are commercially available under the brand name of Truvia, Pure Via and Sweet Leaf in powdered, liquid drops or dissolvable tablet forms. The natural and no calorie stevia extracts are 300 times sweeter than sugar and work well as sweeteners for tea and coffee. FDA considers specific stevia formulation containing Reb –A under ‘generally recognized as safe’ diet supplement category.
Sugar Alcohols such as Xylitol and Mannitols:
Sugar alcohols (polyols) are sugars that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables and are lower in calories and less sweet in taste than sugar, making them an attractive alternative. Sugar alcohols are found in processed foods, chocolates, baked items, fruit spreads and products such as mouthwash, chewing gums and toothpaste. They add a fresh, cooling and sweet sensation without impacting our waistlines and jeopardizing healthful eating intentions.
The artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes may aid in keeping our waistlines trim by lowering the number of calories but must not be mistaken as magic bullets. Foods marketed as sugar free or low calorie can still be loaded with other carbohydrate sources and unhealthy fats and may lead to weight gain and mess up with blood sugar levels.
In nutshell, stevia and sucralose may pose minimum safety concerns, honey and agave offer non synthetic, natural alternative to refined sugar and aspartame and xylitol containing sweeteners must only be consumed in moderation as a part of healthy lifestyle including exercises and balanced diet.
Written by Panchali Moitra