With all the sweeteners out there today, it's no wonder people are totally confused. You have the "blue, pink and yellow" people saying that they offer "no calorie" sweetness, but most of us now know they are completely artificial (who knows what the heck is in that stuff). You have the High Fructose Corn Syrup commercials saying they get a bad rap...with the pretty mom sitting in a pretty corn field telling you that "sugar is sugar". I wonder if that actress feeds it to her kids...
Have you actually looked at packaged foods labels to see what sweeteners are actually in there? Even in products that don't taste sweet? They creep into food everywhere these days and it's time for a change. If you follow a Paleo lifestyle, sweeteners should not be considered "food" or nourishment. With that said, my hope is to give you some clarity on how to make healthier, smarter choices because we all want a "treat" now and then...I will keep the list short and simple for you.
The GOOD - Use Sparingly (natural): Use organic whenever possible.
- cane sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, cane juice, coconut sugar, fruit juice (real), honey (raw), maple syrup (grade B), molasses, palm sugar, stevia (green leaf or extract), dates, date sugar, brown sugar
The BAD - Not recommended (natural):
- agave, agave nectar, barley malt, brown rice syrup, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, ethyl maltol, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, light brown sugar, maltitol, malt syrup, mannitol, sorbitol, sucrose, xylitol (or other raw alchohols, they end in "-ose")
The UGLY - never consume (artificial):
- acesulfame K (Sweet One), aspartame (Equal, Nutra-Sweet), saccharin (Sweet 'N Low), stevia: white/bleached (Truvia, Sun Crystals), sucralose (Splenda)... In a word, these are POISON, seriously....stop it.
All caloric sweeteners have about the same number of calories (16 per teaspoon), but they are NOT created equal... You must consider how it's made, where it's used and how your body processes it.
Here's what you need to know. The more highly refined a sweetener his, the worse it is for you. Artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup are highly refined. They are very modern, factory made products. Honey, maple syrup, green leaf stevia and molasses are all much less processed and have been around for hundreds of years. With honey, almost NO processing is necessary... this is my sweetener of choice.
Many of the foods that have been made low or non-fat have added artificial, low-quality sweeteners in them - even if they aren't sweet! Avoid them.
Sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup and agave nectar require processing by the liver before it hits your blood stream. This used to be viewed as a better option for diabetics, but is now understood to be a complicated issue and that taxing the liver excessively with these types of sweeteners can be harmful to your health.
Fructose is the sugar in all fruit. When we eat it, the micronutrients and fiber contents of the fruit support proper metabolism of the fruit sugar. Whole foods win again!!
I hope this helps clarify some of the many, many sweeteners on the market today and will help you make healthier choices when you choose your treats! :)
- The information in this post was based on the chart "guide to: sweeteners" in the Practical Paleo Cookbook. For the complete chart, click here.