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Sarah Charsley April 2021

Sugar vs Artificial Sweetener, what’s the difference? 

differences between artificial sweetenders and sugar

NNowadays sugar is everywhere – we’re talking EVERYWHERE. From bread, to biscuits, breakfast cereal and smoothies, sugar finds its way into most of our everyday foods and drinks. It hides out in milk and sneaks into ready meals. It’s crammed into low-fat foods to give them flavour. Even so-called healthy snacks at your local health food store are packed full of the sweet stuff. With so many of our everyday foods containing sugar, it’s no surprise many of us are consuming it in unhealthy and even life-threatening measures.

Sugar is a Treat For Kids?

As soon as we’re big enough to reach the sweetie shelf at the newsagents, we’re told sugar is bad for us – it rots our teeth – step away from those milk chocolate bars, kids! Of course, we don’t want to believe it. How could all those tasty treats that make life taste sooooo sweet possibly be doing us any harm? And just to confuse matters we are given sweets as presents, when we are good, or when our parents want us to be quiet.

Why we evolved to love sugar even though it's bad for us. As kids we thought we may grow out of sugar, but even as adults the thought of a life without sugar leaves a bitter taste in our mouth. And it’s not surprising given that our ancestors evolved to have a preference for sweet-tasting foods.

Why? Because sugar is energy dense and therefore kinda handy for survival. But back then sugar wasn’t as easy to come by and our ancestors had to get their annual fix from seasonal fruit or from honey which was guarded by bees. In fact the main way peasants (that's most of us then) used to get sweet things was to candy fruit like apples and oranges. Hence why Christmas puddings were such a treat. 

WHO (The World Health Organisation) guidelines released in 2015 recommend no one should have a daily intake of free sugars higher than 10%.

This equates to about 50g (or 12 teaspoons). They state that reducing to 5% (6 teaspoons) would provide ‘additional health benefits’. Well guess what?  We are calling foul on this nonsense, because that is far too much for a daily intake. We recommend 0g of refined sugar a day. Take away 12 teaspoons to provide health benefits. 

Today, with sugar so readily available it doesn’t long for our sweet tooth to develop and before you can say sticky toffee pudding, we’re hooked!

Honey looks attractive, but its one of the biggest culprits for weight gain

Honey looks attractive, but its one of the biggest culprits for weight gain

Natural sugars have benefits but still promote weight gain. Maple syrup and agave syrup are natural sugars, though some are still highly processed. 

sugars can creep into your health foods
lots of healthy foods contain added sugar

Are there sugars in your health food?

Given that a well-known cereal bar in your local health food store contains up to 13.6g of sugar and a small bottle of “healthy” fruit juice 30g, with no fibre, it’s no surprise that through no fault of our own most of us are consuming far more sugar than we should. So in other words a “healthy” cereal bar and a “healthy” smoothie (labelled no added sugar) can be 43g grams of sugar. That is is HUGE amount, and so easy to eat. 

What about date sugar? 

Many of you may have seen dates being used as natural sugar in bars and other food products. And, yes, it is natural, but, no, it won't stop it being sugar. Whilst it's better than refined sugar, it's still sugar and at 47 on the glycemic index that's still quite high.

However as sugars go, it's not bad. At least it has some vitamins and minerals. Over the last few decades high sugar consumption has been linked to many ills and experts today believe it to be a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Our poor over-worked liver 

But how and why? Well like alcohol sugar is dealt with by the liver, and like with alcohol if you abuse this little friend of ours too much eventually it quits the job and moves to Spain. It quite simply gets over-worked and broken, and sometimes this happens even at a young age. This is why most of us have wonderful bodies at 20 and then all of a sudden out of nowhere we sprout a gut. We have broken our liver's ability to process the bad stuff we eat. So whilst you keep working your liver with sugars it puts the excess aside to deal with later. And guess where that excess goes? You got it...your waist. 

What exactly is sugar?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. Sugar can be natural or refined. Natural sugars are found in fruit (as fructose) and milk (as lactose). Refined sugar – the kind we put in our tea and use to make cakes – comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar.

It is typically found as sucrose – a mixture of glucose and fructose – and has had most of its nutrients removed. Far from being the harbingers of bitter news, we want to show how it’s possible to get your sweetness fix in much healthier ways – ways that won’t compromise your waistline or put you at risk of other health problems.

Because, get this, there are healthier natural alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners, and believe it or not they can make your food taste just as good. What happens when we consume too much sugar?

When sugar enters our bloodstream it causes the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin enables sugar, in the form of glucose, to enter our cells where it can be used for energy. When our cells are full, any excess sugar is packed away as fat. Foods that cause the biggest spike in blood sugar levels are typically the most fattening. These are foods that contain simple rather than complex sugars such as:

white sugar
brown sugar
corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup
treacle
molassess
honey

Sugar is added to our food in so many different forms and guises that it makes it hard to tell how much sugar a food actually contains. Given that Healthline lists a whopping great 56 different names for sugar, it’s no wonder most of us are eating too much of this shape-shifting supervillain.

IIn order to avoid sugar and aid weight loss, many people turn to artificial sweeteners because they contain less calories. These sweeteners allow you to enjoy the sweetness of sugar without putting on weight. Sounds like a win win situation!

Unfortunately, not so. Artificial sweeteners bring their own picnic of sickly-sweet health risks to the table. Despite containing dramatically less calories, widely used sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose are artificial chemicals which can be anywhere from 200-600 times sweeter than sugar itself.

Although most health authorities consider them safe, artificial sweeteners are a hotly debated topic, and although more research is needed, some studies suggest they can actually wreak havoc on our health.

Would you fight this chap for his meal in the wild? 

nature intended us to eat sugar in small quantities
artificial sweeteners may overstimulate sugar receptors and encourage cravings
some fruits contain high levels of natural sugars

Potential dangers of artificial sweeteners

Increase hunger and calorie intake. The intense sweetness of artificial sweeteners may overstimulate sugar receptors and encourage cravings and dependence on sugary foods.

Disrupt gut bacteria, which can lead to problems such as poor blood sugar control, metabolic syndrome, a weakened immune system, and disrupted sleep. Linked with causing headaches and increasing the risk of depression and seizures.

Confuse the brain into favouring artificially sweetened foods over naturally sweet foods, which are far more nutritious.

But we’re not here to take the sweetness out of your life altogether. Far from being the harbingers of bitter news, we want to show how it’s possible to get your sweetness fix in much healthier ways – ways that won’t compromise your waistline or put you at risk of other health problems. Because, get this, there are healthier natural alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners, and believe it or not they can make your food taste just as good.

Natural sweeteners are extracted from fruits and vegetables, contain minimal calories and vary in sweetness from around half to two-thirds compared with that of normal sugar.

Top Natural Sweeteners

Stevia

A zero-calorie plant-based sweetener that comes from the leaves of the South American Stevia Shrub. It can be up to 350 times sweeter than sugar. so you need much less of it. Some people find it has an unpleasant, slightly bitter taste, comparable to liquorice.

Monk Fruit Sugar

A plant-based sweetener extracted from a small round fruit grown in Southeast Asia. 100–250 times sweeter than sugar, monk fruit gets its sweetness from antioxidants called mogrosides and has a very few calories.

Yacon Syrup

This thick, dark, sweet tasting syrup is extracted from the yacón plant and has one-third of the calories of regular sugar. It contains 40–50% fructooligosaccharides, a special type of sugar molecule that the human body cannot digest and which are thought to offer a variety of health benefits.

Xylitol

a sugar alcohol extracted from corn or birch wood and found in many fruits and vegetables. It contains 40% fewer calories than sugar but tastes very similar. It’s biggest plus point is its lack of fructose, sugar’s most harmful ingredient. The jury is out on xylitol as a keto-friendly product, and we don't recommend it as such as it may still have the potential to spike blood sugar. Also, Xylitol can be highly toxic to dogs. 

Erythritol

a sugar alcohol which tastes practically the same regular sugar but contains 6% of the calories, making it an easy switch. Apart from tasting great, it does not raise blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, or triglyceride levels. The body doesn’t have the enzymes to break the majority of erythritol down which means it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and excreted in urine unchanged. This prevents it causing the harmful effects associated with regular sugar. Unlike xylitol, it’s not harmful to dogs. Phew!

The Benefits of Natural Sweeteners

1. Activate your taste buds to create that familiar sweet sensation and satisfy sugar cravings.

2. Don’t spike blood sugars levels or effect insulin pathways.

3. Very low calorie, so great for weight loss.

4. Suitable for low-carb and ketogenic diets and for those with diabetes.

5. Support dental health by preventing plaque build-up.

6. When consumed in moderation natural sweeteners are considered to be pure, safe and healthy alternatives to sugar, with none of the drawbacks of artificial sweeteners
.

However, more research is needed to provide conclusive evidence on their relation to natural weight management, diabetes and other health issues. Due to their low-calorie content natural sweeteners are suitable for diabetics and those following a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

Another way to sweeten your food it to use naturally sweet food products like honey, agave syrup and coconut sugar. Many people chose these as healthier alternatives to refined sugar because they more natural and nutritious.

But beware you don’t fall into the honey trap! The trouble is, unlike natural sweeteners, the aforementioned products are still very high in sugar and can cause the body just as much harm as other processed sugary foods. This makes them a dietary danger zone if you're looking to lose weight.

Ketonika Im Sweet enough 0 Calories Sugar 

Our sugar replacement blend I’m Sweet Enough is a zero calorie mix of erythritol and stevia. We haven’t tried it after medicine yet, but we can definitely say that compared to regular sugar, a spoonful of I'm Sweet Enough helps the calories go down. In a most delightful way.

References

1) Nutrition Brought to Life, by Kirsten Chick

2) Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs and Sugar, by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg

3) The 56 Most Common Names for Sugar, Healthline

4) Gain Weight by 'going diet?' Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings.

5) Artificial Sweeteners: Good or Bad? Healthline

get your sweetness fix by eating foods that contain natural sweeteners like erythritol

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