The Worst List:
- Aspartame: This sweetener is a longstanding offender for health issues. There is still a large debate as to whether it is actually safe to consume. Some individuals suffer from harsh headaches if any aspartame is consumed. It is found mostly in diet drinks and products. A recent study in Liverpool found that if this sweetener is combined with specific coloring agents, toxicity of the brain results. Also, instead of helping those with diabetes (as it’s marketed to do) it may actually increase risk for the disease. My own experience with this sweetener in outpatient counseling is that those individuals that consume the most aspartame have the highest body weight and most out of control diabetes. I know for my own personal use, the fact that there is still a debate about the safety of aspartame keeps me away from it. Plus the taste isn’t all that spectacular.
- Agave: You think high fructose corn syrup is bad, agave may be the biggest sweetener offender. This sweetener is processed much like the notorious HFCS; a great deal of energy is used to produce it. Also, many preparations of it have more fructose in the final product than HFCS itself has. If you really want agave, search for preparations that have between 30 and 40 percent fructose. Fructose is metabolized in to fat faster than fat can be stored as fat. This is the reasoning why drinking HFCS (or agave…) adds body weight so easily.
- Sucralose: This sweetener, commonly known as Splenda, is processed with chlorine. The end product of this sweetener can’t even be broken down in water-waste plants after it’s passed through our bodies. Since it never breaks down, this could be affecting more than humans in the long run. I’ve never been a big Splenda fan, and am now very pleased to see it on the bad guy list (now I know my abstinence wasn’t for nothing!)
The Best List:
- Stevia: Since it is derived from a naturally growing plant, this is one of the lowest calorie, safe sweeteners around. Some preparations are better tasting than others. They have a bit of a black licorice aftertaste. If one doesn’t suit your fancy, test out another.
- Sugar Alcohols: These are primarily used in chewing gums. Sugar alcohols are created by fermenting natural sugars. They have been demonstrated to help prevent cavities. They have a cooling effect, and have few calories compared to pure sugar. Eating these in high amounts can produce intestinal discomfort, so just be sure to limit your use.
- Raw Honey: Not only is this a natural sweetener, it has extra benefits. Honey contains many antioxidants to help fight cancer. Thank you bees!
- Blackstrap Molasses: This is not a low calorie sweetener. It is highly concentrate, but contains many vitamins and minerals along with the high calories. It has iron, calcium and potassium (minerals that most American’s are deficient in!)
Image credit to creative commons user Uwe Hermann