Natural Sugar Substitutes That Have Side-Benefits
Far too often, people are focused on what they should not be eating, which is fine, but instead, it is more important to understand what people should be eating. With this, though, people always seem able to construct a new revolutionary diet, from the cabbage and liquid diets in the 1980s to the Atkins and gluten-free foods of today.
Notwithstanding the healthy-diet trends, Americans are fatter and unhealthier than ever. According to a 2016 United States Department of Health and Human Services study, two-thirds of adults were considered to be overweight or have obesity . Regardless of socioeconomic or ethnic backgrounds, obesity and extreme obesity are an American health crisis, and with 1-in-6 children age 2 through 19 being obese, this problem does not seem to be dissolving any time soon .
One significant contributing factor to the obesity crisis is America’s obsession with sugar and sweet products. Now, this could partially a result of the sugar industry’s massive lobbying efforts, manipulation of scientific data, and appointing pro-sugar health experts to nutrition boards to point the obesity blame away from sugar to fat. Yet, the science is precise: increased sugar consumption is directly linked to an increased risk of obesity, as a 2012 meta-analysis confirmed .
Perhaps the worst aspect of this trend is sugar no longer seems to mean sugar; sugar is being replaced with cheap high-fructose corn syrup, of which 92% is genetically modified to withstand being sprayed with herbicides like glyphosate, which can enter the food supply can cause a plethora of health problems  . Since high-fructose corn syrup is being used to sweeten virtually everything in grocery stores, it is no surprise American’s dietary sugar intake is higher than ever . Additionally, studies have related a high consumption of high-fructose sweeteners to increased chances of cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney diseases, gout, and many more .
Synthetic Zero-Calorie Alternatives
Perhaps you may ask: Well, I use aspartame or sucralose, and those are healthy, right?
Aspartame has been linked to a plethora of health issues, including declined kidney function, decreased insulin sensitivity, increased brain oxidative stress, neurological dysfunction, several cancers, mental disorders, and leukemia .
Likewise, sucralose is not a safe alternative either and has been linked to increased chances of diabetes and obesity, destroying the flora balance in the GI tract, and has been considered toxic and carcinogenic .
Studies have shown that ingesting these synthetic sweeteners leads to the individual craving the sweet tastes, which then leads to weight gain and other adverse effects linked to excessive sugar consumption . So, while one may think they are in the clear because these compounds are not technically sugar, they have a barrel of risks of their own.
Nature seems to have all the answers for natural health alternatives, including natural sweeteners. For the remainder of this article, we will be reviewing three, healthy options to take the place of sugar and synthetic sweetener consumption, and each has its side benefits.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of a South American plant known scientifically as Stevia rebaudiana. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar but has no caloric content, meaning it is non-caloric.
In several studies, researchers noted that stevia is not associated with any adverse health effects  .
In a 2017 study, researchers dubbed stevia as “a suitable calorie-free sweetener,” with “pharmacological and therapeutic properties, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, and anticancer” . The researchers also noted Stevia had positive effects on those with metabolic conditions associated with excess sugar consumption, such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes .
In a review of several studies published in 2000, 2003, and 2008 researchers noted that stevioside, one of the sweet compounds in stevia, can lower high blood pressure by 6-14%   .
Further, 2004 and 2015 studies investigated the effects of stevioside people with type-2 diabetes. The researchers found stevioside to lower blood sugar and insulin levels  , which, again, may help people with various metabolic disorders, including obesity and diabetes.
Stevia is also available to many forms, including power, crystal, and liquid. However, it is essential to note there are two types of extracts from stevia: stevioside and rebaudioside A.
Both have a sweet taste; both taste slightly different; but, some stevia products have an aftertaste. Therefore, it may take some experimenting to get the right product.
Xylitol is perhaps a trendy sweetener, having become popular in recent times. Xylitol is derived from xylose, which is a crystalline sugar found in birch bark . Compared to sugar, xylitol contains 40% fewer calories and only 2.4 calories per gram, which makes it appealing to calorie-conscious consumers. Also, like stevia, xylitol does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels . This mostly exists because xylitol has a meager glycemic rating since xylitol is metabolized independently of insulin in the gut. Therefore, xylitol is generally regarded as safe for hypoglycemics and sugar-sensitive individuals.
Xylitol stands out from synthetic sweeteners too because it is found solely in nature. Along with birch bark, xylitol is found in the cellular structure of fruits like raspberries and vegetables like a corn cob. The human body even produces between 5-15 grams of xylitol every day during normal metabolic processes.
Like stevia, several studies have found xylitol to have health benefits.
One of the largest supporters of xylitol is the dental health community, primarily because of xylitol’s dental health benefits.
A review of studies from 1975, 2003, 2011, and 2013 found xylitol to reduce one’s risk of developing cavities and tooth decay    .
This primarily exists because xylitol prevents the growth of the bacteria Streptococcus mutans.
Even xylitol-sweetened chewing gum has been shown to decrease the risk of cavities, caries, and tooth decay because of its effect on the Streptococcus mutans bacteria.
A 2000 study found that xylitol chewing gum suppresses Streptococcus mutans growth, indicating it may prevent dental caries .
A 2003 study found that xylitol-containing chewing gums have a beneficial effect on lactic acid production in dental plaque from caries active pre-school children .
A 2010 study even found that the frequent use of xylitol can be associated with a significant reduction in caries incidence and with tooth remineralization .
Xylitol consumption has also been shown to decrease ear and throat infections  dramatically.
Research has also shown that xylitol increases the body’s absorption of calcium, which not only benefits tooth health, but also bone health and may help prevent osteoporosis    .
While xylitol has many health benefits, it is vital to note xylitol can have a laxative effect, so start consuming it slowly. Also, because of how much of corn is genetically modified, unless you can find an organic source, it is recommended you find a manufacturer who uses birch, rather than corn. Finally, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, so do not give it to your pet.
Monk fruit extract or monk fruit sweetener is extracted from the monk fruit. The monk fruit is a small, round fruit found in Southeast Asia. While it has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese Medicine, the FDA did not approve its use as a sweetener until 2010.
The sweetness of the monk fruit does not come from the fruit itself. Instead, the sweetness comes from one of the antioxidants in the fruit: mogrosides.
Monk fruit sweetener is created from the mogrosides that are separated from the monk fruit during processing. Depending on the concentration of mogrosides, monk fruit extract can be 100-250 times sweeter than sugar, though it contains no fructose or glucose.
Since monk fruit is non-caloric, consuming it as a replacement for sugar could lower the total calories someone eats. Thus, helping them manage their weight more effectively. However, most people who replace zero-calorie sweeteners with sugar only lose about 2 pounds or so . Yet, this is still a healthier sweetener than sugar, and consuming it as a substitute may help the individual forgo any of the risks associated with sugar consumption.
Like stevia and xylitol, research has investigated the health benefits of mon fruit sweetener.
Since the sweet part of the monk fruit, mogrosides, are an antioxidant, mogrosides have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties , and these properties are likely to contribute to various health benefits, such as cancer prevention and aiding in diabetes complications .
In animal and test-tube studies, though the researchers could not explain how, they found that monk fruit extract inhibited cancer growth   . One study found that mogrosides suppressed leukemia cancer growth , and another showed mogrosides had potent effects which hindered skin tumors in mice .
As mentioned, because monk fruit sweetener is non-caloric and non-carb, it will not raise blood sugar levels and may be a safe option for people with diabetes or people who are sugar sensitive.
Several animal studies using diabetic mice have shown that monk fruit extract could help reduce blood sugar levels, and one study showed when diabetic mice were given the extract   , they had lower oxidative stress and blood sugar levels and an increase in HDL levels .
The traditional American diet sucks. Plain and simple. Americans consume more sugar than any other country, and the heart disease and obesity statistics show it. However, switching from high-fructose corn syrup to better, alternative natural sugars is perhaps one of the first steps in correcting the national obesity crisis.
Stevia, xylitol, and monk fruit have all been shown to be safe for people who are insulin sensitive, and each sweetener has its list of side benefits.
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 Article partially adapted from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/4-sugar-alternatives-wont-poison-you with additional research and information