Sugar (carbohydrates), as protein (meat, fish…) and fat (oils, avocados…) our body needs and must absorb every day. The problem is not with sugar, but it is that most people consume too much sugar without even realizing it, because it is much more convenient to buy ready-made meals and snacks. How many of you get acquainted with the composition of the product before adding it to your shopping cart? However, it is time consuming to prepare a healthy diet from basic products yourself…
All processed foods - from carbonated drinks to "natural", "fitness", "Bio", "Eco", "Protein", etc., are the main sources of excess sugar consumption.
Even the term - Sugar addiction and some researchers say, "Consumption of sugar has a cocaine-like effect in improving mood, possibly due to its ability to cause relief and joy."
Let's start with the terminology
A sugar substitute is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like sugar while containing significantly less food energy (Kcal) than sugar. The following are distinguished:
- Sugar substitutes with 0 Kal (no nutrients)
- Low calorie sugar substitutes.
Sugar substitutes, often advertised as healthier alternatives to sugar or other sugar substitutes. However, these "natural sweeteners" are often processed and refined and contain a relatively large number of calories.
Natural sweeteners that are recognized as safe are:
- Fruit juices and nectars
- Maple or date syrup
Health effects of natural sweeteners
Excessive use of natural sweeteners can cause health problems such as tooth decay, weight gain and elevated triglycerides. Honey may contain small amounts of bacterial spores that can produce botulinum toxin. Honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age.
Synthetic sugar substitutes. But they can also be obtained from naturally occurring substances, such as plants or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are divided into:
- Volume sweeteners - less sweet than sugar, so put more compared to sugar;
- Intense sweeteners - many times sweeter than sugar, so put less compared to sugar.
Their use is also different - for example, meringue can be well whipped with erythritol (volume sweetener), but you will not succeed with stevia (intense sweetener).
Artificial sweeteners can be a good alternative to sugar because they add virtually no calories to food.
Health effects of artificial sweeteners
- Does not promote tooth decay.
- Helps control weight because they have virtually no calories.
- A good alternative for diabetics. Artificial sweeteners are not carbohydrates. So unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners do not usually raise your blood sugar.
Critics of artificial sweeteners say they cause a variety of health problems, including cancer. However, it is an undeniable fact that artificial sweeteners have been intensively tested for decades and so far there is no convincing scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use cause cancer or other serious health problems. On the contrary, many studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe to use in limited amounts, even in pregnant women.
Sugar alcohols (polyols)
Carbohydrates that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables and can also be produced artificially. Despite their name, sugar alcohols are not alcoholic because they do not contain the ethanol found in alcoholic beverages.
Sugar alcohols are not sweeter than sugar and contain calories, but they contain far fewer calories than sugar - so sugar alcohols are a good alternative to sugar.
Sugar alcohols are not commonly used in cooking, but are found in many processed foods as well as in chocolate, chewing gum and toothpastes.
Sugar alcohols are often combined with artificial sweeteners to improve sweetness. The general term 'sugar alcohol' or a specific name, such as sorbitol, shall be used on the label to indicate the composition.
Health effects of sugar alcohols
Like artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols do not promote tooth decay and help control weight, but unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols are carbohydrates and can raise blood sugar. However, the effect of sugar alcohols on blood sugar levels is less than other sugars because the body does not absorb them completely.
When consumed in large quantities, sugar alcohols can cause bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.
In my opinion, the best sweeteners
- Stevia - it has a specific taste, so I do not put it on coffee, but it is quite good in confectionery. Stevia leaves have several positive properties, such as lowering blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, dissolving blood clots and strengthening tooth enamel as opposed to sugar.
- xylitol (or xylitol) - is considered a natural sweetener in some sources because it is obtained from corn cobs. This sweetener has a low glycemic index and can be used by people with diabetes.
- Erythritol, similar to xylitol, is also obtained from corn. Erythritol has 95% fewer calories than white sugar and has a low glycemic index. This is one of my favorite volume sweeteners.
Choose sugar substitutes wisely. Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can help with weight control, but they are not a magic wand and should be used in moderation. As I have written many times - there is no "bad" product, you can eat everything, but in moderation
Remember - read the composition of the products! Foods sold as 'sugar-free', 'fitness', 'bio', 'eco', 'protein', etc. are not calorie-free and can still cause weight gain. Choose natural products instead of processed ones that contain both sugar substitutes and many other substances you do not need.
* James J DiNicolantonio and cardiologist James H O'Keefe, Saint Luke's Mid American Heart Institute in Kansas.
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