Sugar has been a hot nutrition topic for 2016! Why? Because as we have stated on previous blogs, Americans are consuming far too much of it. Sugar basically provides us with empty calories; we get energy, but nothing else beneficial. There is now a push to use alternative sweeteners, some claiming to be natural, but are they the better choice? Some provide as many calories as table sugar, others contain fewer calories, and some are calorie-free. Let’s take a look at some of the newer natural sugars out there:
Stevia: a calorie free sweetener extracted from the leaves of a plant. Unfortunately, it is not as natural as it sounds. You can buy stevia extract from health food stores, but the stevia sold in supermarkets has other compounds added, and is not as pure (or natural!). I personally am not a fan. I still group stevia with the artificial sweeteners because of how it is manufactured. Of course, you could buy a stevia plant and use the leaves; that would be as natural as you can get 😉
Monk Fruit Sugar: a low calorie sweetener extracted from a sub tropical melon. The extraction process appears to be natural, but is it better to use than normal sugar? Too new to tell! Its sounds better since it is a fruit, but it is not being used in its whole fruit form; the extract comes from the juice. The juice is so much sweeter than regular sugar that you don’t need nearly as much, helping to keep calories low.
Coconut Palm Sugar: a caloric sweetener derived from the coconut palm plant. It is marketed as having more nutrients than sugar, but in reality you would have to eat a ton of it to get those benefits. Still a better choice? Maybe! Reminds me of using honey or agave. Still loaded with calories and sweet, but at least you get some vitamins/minerals and possibly a lower glycemic response.
Honey, maple syrup, agave, and molasses are the more common natural sweeteners that we are all familiar with!
As always, I’m going to push you to consider just sticking to whole natural foods and relying on their natural sweetness as much as possible. Some alternative natural sweeteners might be a better option than just plain old refined sugar, but honestly just focusing on consuming less sweeteners in general is more beneficial. Sugar is sugar after all.
To YOUR Taste!