Natural Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners – What’s Best for You?
Chances are, you’ve heard lots of negative information about natural sugar as well as artificial sweeteners, and about how they’re both downright terrible for your health. It is true that natural sugar, meaning white cane sugar, has no real nutritional value. Some artificial sweeteners like saccharin have also been linked to a number of serious health problems. However, this doesn’t mean you should just give up your sweeteners altogether, or live without that sweet taste you love in what you eat and drink!
Since many people prefer a bit of sweetness in their diet, it’s good to know the real truth about natural sweeteners, natural sugar substitutes, and any type of sugar replacement. Let’s check out a few facts you want to consider before you add a sweetener to your coffee or tea or bake anything sweet, or just decide that you need to give up all forms of sugar!
- The truth about natural sugar
As said, natural sugar has no real nutritional value; it has no vitamins, trace minerals, amino acids, or anything else useful to your health. However, the body can and does metabolize small amounts of sugar very safely; it is absorbed into the bloodstream and then converted into energy. Unused calories of raw sugar are the danger; these are converted and stored as fat.
It’s also typically just persons with blood glucose problems, such as diabetes or hypoglycemia, that have problems metabolizing small amounts of this sweetener. If you’re worried that a daily sprinkle of sugar in your coffee or the rare dessert will somehow automatically give you cancer or heart disease or diabetes, you can typically put those fears to rest and enjoy small amounts of cane sugar safely.
- When natural sugar becomes a danger
Since some cane sugar is not typically dangerous to most people, when does it become a hazard to your health? One consideration is the number of calories in cane sugar or any sweetener. Sugar itself has 15 calories per teaspoon; this may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that raw sugar is usually added to many foods you eat throughout the day, some of which might surprise you. This can include salad dressings, soups, stews, and even dairy products like cheese and butter!
You may not expect to find any added sweetener in such “healthy” foods, but you can see how the calories in cane sugar and sugar alternatives can start to add up throughout your day. Remember, any calories you consume but that you don’t burn off through activity will be converted and stored as fat, so if you don’t keep track of your cane sugar consumption and amount of calories you consume throughout the day, you can easily pack on pounds. This is true even if you only use a small amount of raw sugar in coffee, tea, and on your morning cereal.
You might also increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease when you have too much of any sweetener, as the body then won’t be able to metabolize that sugar so easily. It will, instead, get absorbed into the bloodstream and make its way into your circulatory system, where it can eventually cause heart damage and hardened arteries. However, this is typically a health concern only for those who large amounts of sugar every day.
- What about sugar alternatives?
Some artificial sweeteners like saccharin have been linked to a number of diseases, including high blood pressure and even cancer , . While more research needs to be done, it might be good to avoid a sugar replacement made with lots of chemicals and artificial sweeteners, and opt for healthy sugar substitutes.
For example, turbinado sugar is made from raw sugar a1nd has minimal refinement, so it’s very close to brown sugar in its taste and texture, and doesn’t have the chemicals of other sugar alternatives. Demerara sugar is also less refined that white cane sugar, and has a higher concentration of molasses. These types of natural sugar substitutes are healthier than saccharin or other artificial sweeteners, although they may have a richer, deeper flavor than white sugar; remember that when using them in coffee, on cereal, or in baking. Organic cane sugar can also mean getting the natural taste of sugar that you love but without any additives, pesticides, or other harmful products often used in the growing and harvesting process.
Honey is another very healthy substitute for sugar; unlike other sweeteners, honey is actually quite good for you. It has a high protein content and is chockfull of essential minerals needed for healthy muscles. It can also help to coat your digestive tract and make elimination easier; honey can also settle an upset stomach and relieve constipation.
- Satisfying a sweet tooth
If you’re looking for a sugar replacement simply because you have a sweet tooth, you might consider some natural alternatives, including fruits and fruit juices. Many people in Eastern European countries, as an example, use blackberries to sweeten their tea; stir a few into your coffee or tea and you’ll have a mildly sweet taste that you might love even more than white cane sugar! Berries, bananas, and other fruit can also be all the sweetness you need for your morning cereal or oatmeal.
If you like sweet soda, make up your own fruit juice with filtered seltzer water and fresh berries of all varieties, oranges, lime juice, lemon juice, and whatever else you enjoy. The carbonation of the seltzer can substitute for a fizzy soda while the sweetness of the fruit will keep that sweet tooth satisfied, but without all the cane sugar you would otherwise get in soda.
Cinnamon also has a mildly sweet flavor, so if you like the taste of sweet baked goods, add a heaping teaspoon or even more of cinnamon to your muffins, cakes, cookies, and the like. You can also add cinnamon to your morning oatmeal and forego a sweetener altogether, or add a dash of cinnamon to your coffee beans when brewing your morning pot for a sweet and unique taste!