We have gone from fear of fat to fear of sugar. How bad is sugar? And should you replace it with another sweetener?
Let me answer those questions!
Sugar has been getting a bad reputation recently. And for good reasons. Scientists and physicians have begun to realize just how bad sugar really is for your body.
Why is Sugar Bad?
Most people know that sugar can cause dental caries, and put a few extra pounds around your waist. What you might not know, is that it also increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and multiple forms of cancer.
If you for example consume 1 liter of soda a day for 10 years, you’ll increase the risk for colon cancer with 30-40%. Another turn off is that consuming sugar accelerates the ageing process. So there really are legitimate reasons for you to avoid it, or at least cut down on your consumption.
Not All Sugars Are Created Equal
It’s important to understand that there are many different types of sugar, and that some types are more harmful than others.
White refined sugar is the worst. It’s produced from sugar canes and beets – natural crops that actually contain vitamins and fiber – by “purifying” it to 100% sucrose. Since sucrose is bad, this means that all content that’s healthy has been removed, leaving only the unhealthy parts.
If you compare white refined sugar to raw cane sugar – which is made from the same sugar beets, but that hasn’t been refined – it too contains a lot of energy, but it also contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Clearly a much better option.
As an answer to recent criticism, the food industry has opened up more shelf space for alternatives to white sugar. They might not be new to you, but they are to the average consumer.
Brown sugars – like coconut sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, and raw cane sugar – contain several healthy ingredients that you won’t find in the white refined stuff.
Studies have shown that if you would replace all the white sugar you eat with brown sugar, you would get the amount of antioxidants equivalent to a bowl of fruit salad. Not bad at all!
These alternatives are not without problems though. They still contain a whole lot of energy. Unless you have a physically active lifestyle, you are at risk for becoming overweight or even obese.
Sweeteners With No Calories
As an alternative to all the different types of sugar, there are sweeteners with no calories at all. Both natural and artificial. Aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, are today the the most commonly used artificial sweeteners.
Because theses sweeteners don’t contain any calories, they might seem to be the perfect substitute for the high-calorie sugars. In reality though, they can hinder more than help. Now I can almost hear you think, how is that possible?
Well, the reason is that sweet flavor on your tongue releases a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is what makes us hungry and craving for something sweet.
This means that when you drink diet soda, you become hungrier, which in turn makes you eat more. And when you eat more than your body needs, you gain weight. I personally had a hard time accepting this as a fact, but it has been confirmed in studies.
What about stevia, the best natural sweetener with zero calories? The popularity of stevia has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Could it be your best bet?
Well, stevia is actually a bit trickier than the artificial sweeteners, because some people that consume stevia get hungrier while others feel fuller. It’s hard to get consistent data on its effects on hunger.
On the other hand, it is natural and it doesn’t contain any calories, so stevia is definitely better than the white sugar!
But just like with artificial sweeteners, the sweet flavor of stevia can cause you to crave for more sweets and unhealthy foods. That’s why we recommend you to be careful and consume it within reason.
When considering all aspects, we think that stevia is your best sweetener. It’s not without problems, but it has two major advantages:
- It contains no calories
- It’s extracted from a natural plant
The other alternatives are either artificial or contain a lot of energy.