One of the current global health problems, especially in the Western world, is sugar. It causes a multitude of chronic diseases such as diabetes, myocardial infarctions, obesity, cancer, etc.
Faced with this, the pharmaceutical industry is obtaining sugar substitutes that try to reduce the consumption of this substance, since every year it involves enormous costs to the Social Security.
Sugar is present in everything. Although we do not take any of this compound, most packaged products, cans (such as fried tomatoes) and bags contain to a greater or lesser extent sugary compounds.
Of the so-called sweeteners, it has often been associated with the probability of suffering from different types of cancer, although the scientific community does not see warning signs nor has it been scientifically proven.
If we want to sweeten our life, we can turn to these natural sugar substitutes. In this article we offer you 7 healthy alternatives.
Why Sugar Isn’t Good for You
Whatever the form of sugar (white sugar, brown, etc.), it is nothing positive for us.
It does not contain unsaturated fats (considered as positive), proteins, vitamins or minerals. It only provides sugars.
If you ask any doctor or nutritionist, their answer is going to be clear and concise: minimize the intake of any source of sugars.
It causes weight gain, chronic diseases and is addictive
Sugar contains compounds that interact negatively with hormones in your body that regulate hunger or the feeling of being full. In this way, the deception of our body causes you to consume an excess of calories and increase body weight.
In addition, it modifies metabolic behavior, increasing insulin levels and body fat reserve. In addition, scientific studies have found an intense relationship between sugar and obesity. [See study]
High sugar intake is linked to various diseases considered deadly around the world. An example of this is the increase in heart disease, diabetes or cancer in patients who usually take sugar.
It is not uncommon to say that even sugar can create addiction. This is because when consumed, dopamine is released throughout the body, something related to what many drugs that offer a feeling of euphoria do.
8 Natural Sugar Substitutes
Everyone knows the origin, sweetness and appearance of honey produced by bees.
It offers a composition in vitamins and minerals quite balanced, among which we find powerful antioxidants.
Contains minimal amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as a lot of beneficial antioxidants^[Source of information]
Increasing the intake of antioxidants favors the reduction of coronary diseases and different types of digestive cancer.
This sugar substitute has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce LDL (harmful) cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels in diabetic people. [See study]
There is a relationship between honey consumption and the decrease in C-reactive protein (CRP), considered a marker of inflammation. The same happened for homocysteine, also associated with inflammatory processes.
On the other hand, the fructose content of honey is high, so it may also be related to other health problems derived from the consumption of common sugar.
Stevia is a naturally occurring sweetener obtained from the leaves of the South American shrub Stevia rebaudiana.
Its caloric content is zero and there is no scientific documentation that relates it to the increase in body weight.
Human studies have shown that stevia is not related to any adverse health effects. [Source]
In addition, according to the previous study, in addition to not having adverse effects, it can offer us benefits.
These benefits are related to the concentration of stevioside, which is the main compound that characterizes the sweet taste of stevia. This compound can reduce blood pressure by up to 14%
In addition, it has been documented that it can reduce sugar in the bloodstream and, in turn, insulin levels, which seems to be able to help control diabetes [Scientific analysis]
Stevia, which usually comes in powder or liquid form, may contain different concentrations of stevioside and rebaudioside, with a somewhat different flavor.
Xylitol is a sugar from alcohol quite similar to sugar. Its extraction occurs through birch wood or corn, being able to be found, naturally, in many fruits and even vegetables.
Its caloric content is very low (although higher than stevia), with 2.4 kcal per gram. Comparatively, it is 40% lower in caloric intake than sugar.
In addition, it has been shown not to raise insulin and blood sugar levels. [See study]
The main detrimental effects of common sugar is its high fructose content. That is why xylitol is an interesting alternative because it does not contain this compound.
In turn, benefits for the body have been studied from xylitol.
The first of these is associated with the improvement of dental health, by reducing the risk of caries and caries. [Study 1]
It has been shown how these sugar substitutes can increase calcium absorption. It is related to improving bone density and protecting against osteoporosis. Initially, the studies have been demonstrated in animals, so the next step is to attribute them to human health.
However, some side effects have been found at the digestive level, such as the appearance of gas, bloating or diarrheal processes.
Sugar substitutes in the form of erythritol are somewhat unknown to the general public, although they offer health advantages.
Compared to xylitol, the erythritol it is also a sugar alcohol, but contains even less caloric intake (only 0.24 kcal per gram)
Once consumed, this common sugar substitute is not broken down into other elements, because our body does not have the necessary enzymes to break it down. Erythritol is immediately incorporated into the bloodstream and the excess is eliminated in the urine unchanged.
From this, there is no direct relationship with the damage that can be caused by ordinary sugar.
Something positive about this glucose substitute is that it does not increase sugar levels in the bloodstream, neither insulin nor cholesterol.
The medical community considers this supplement as positive for the body, without side effects.
Very high doses of this compound can cause xylitol-like digestive disorders. The maximum dose is 2.2 grams per kg of body weight.
Coconut sugar comes from the extraction of sap from the coconut palm.
In its composition we can find different minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and numerous antioxidants.
Another advantage is that it has a glycemic index much smaller than sugar, and this is related to its inulin content.
This compound, inulin, is a fiber that favors the reduction of the rate of glucose absorption
However, a drawback of coconut sugar is its high caloric intake, since it contains the same amount as ordinary sugar.
It has high levels of fructose, so it is considered a not so positive aspect in these sugar substitutes. Therefore, it is an alternative but not as healthy as other alternatives.
5. Yacon syrup
This possible natural substitute for sugar comes from the yacon plant, whose origin is from South America and its scientific name Smallanthus sonchifolius.
Its taste is very sweet and visually it has a dark color, with a thick appearance similar to honey or molasses.
Its popularity, although today it is not well known, is increasing and has gained the respect of many doctors and nutritionists.
Currently there are not many scientific studies attributed to these sugar substitutes of vegetable origin, although a priori it seems that it reduces weight loss in overweight women. [View Report]
Its content is about 45 to 50% of fructooligosaccharides, a class of sugar-related molecule, which the digestive system cannot digest.
Therefore, yacon syrup contains 3 times less than the calories provided by common sugar.
Clinical trials have found that fructooligosaccharides are able to reduce known hunger hormone (ghrelin), favoring the loss of appetite sensation
As with the other sugar substitutes discussed, excessive consumption can have mild side effects, such as gas, diarrhea, or digestive discomfort.
A problem at the gastronomic level of yacon syrup is that fructooligosaccharides are destroyed at high temperatures, so their benefits are lost. Therefore, they cannot be baked, but they can be introduced into coffee or tea.
6. Maple syrup
Another syrup within the group of sugar substitutes that comes from the sap of trees known as maples.
Its consistency is thick and has a caramelized appearance. It contains a remarkable amount of different minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and manganese, in addition to more than 24 different antioxidants positive for the body.
Although its glycemic index is slightly lower than regular sugar, it increases blood sugar levels, something that does not make it indicated for patients suffering from diabetes.
Maple syrup, along with maple sugar coconut or honey, are healthier options than ordinary sugar, but they should be consumed in small amounts, since they are not risk-free.
Molasses is related, in appearance and consistency, to syrup. Its origin is from sugar beet or sugar cane, so it is intimately related to ordinary sugar.
It contains several groups of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, even in higher concentration than maple syrup or honey.
It contains a handful of vitamins and minerals, as well as several antioxidants. It would not be among the healthy sugar substitutes, but it does offer alternatives to this, also of moderate consumption.