The “Sugar Free” Dilemma
It’s fantastic that so many people are realizing that our typical diets include too much sugar and that it is bad for their health. As a result, people are trying to reduce sugar wherever they can. But, can you replace sugar with other sweeteners and make all the “bad” go away? Can we really have our cake, and maybe eat it too? That is not an easy question to answer. When a packaged food is touted as “sugar free,” that often means the real sugar has been replaced with an artificial sweetener, and is likely more harmful than refined sugar. Natural sweeteners are a better choice, but some affect your blood sugar more than others.
When considering the harmful effects of artificial sugars on our bodies, some of the findings are rather ironic, in that, the sugar replacements often worsen the very things that people are trying to correct.
Here are just a few of the ways that artificial sweeteners can be bad for our health.
• Our bodies become confused by a sweet taste without calories. When no actual food arrives, leptin, the hormone which signals that we are satiated, is not released causing an increase in food cravings that can only be satiated by actual calories.
• Although they have no calories, artificial sweeteners still increase insulin, leading to blood sugar drops, fat storage, and more sugar cravings
• Artificial sweeteners cause an increased risk of obesity and diabetes through their effect on intestinal microflora, which alters our metabolic pathways and our ability to transport sugar.
• Research has shown that aspartame has a greater effect on insulin sensitivity than sugar
• Aspartame may increase our risk of Alzheimer’s disease through methanol toxicity
• As the use of artificial sweeteners has increased, so have the obesity rates.
• Plus, artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, erythritol can be made from corn, soy, or sugar beets which are likely to be genetically modified and designed to resist spraying with additional pesticides.
It’s even a good idea to be mindful of the natural sweeteners used in your bakery products, choosing those with a lower glycemic index (GI), an indication that they will have less impact on your blood sugar. The lower the glycemic index, the slower they are digested, absorbed and metabolized, resulting in a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and therefore insulin levels.
“Requests for sugar free and natural sweeteners are routine at our bakery” states Linda Beg, owner of Starseed Bakery in Rockaway, NJ, a dedicated gluten, dairy, soy and GMO free facility. “We are committed to a philosophy of baking clean, so we utilize a variety of natural and healthier sweeteners such as coconut nectar, stevia, coconut sugar, xylitol (from birch), agave, honey, dates, and organic fruits, all of which are lower in GI than processed sugar. When we do use refined white, brown or confectioner’s sugar, it is certified organic,” explains Ms. Beg. “Another benefit of baking with natural sweeteners is that it allows the flavors of other ingredients to come through, resulting in a better tasting dessert!”
Today, addressing the challenges of “sugar overload” by creating healthier, yet sweet-to-the-taste fare is a growing industry that is finding success through proving “Yes, you can have your healthy, naturally sweetened cake…and eat it too!”
Donna Becker is a nutritional consultant, holistic wellness counselor and NES health bioenergetic practitioner. PathToBetterHealthNJ.com.
Linda Beg is founder and baker of Starseed Bakery, located at 100 Hibernia Avenue in Rockaway. StarseedBakery.com.
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