Three Natural Sweeteners For A Sugar Free Diet
Using natural sweeteners is a great way to start a sugar free diet. Sugar is everywhere, but there are healthy sugar substitutes you can use when you cut out sugar. Just because you have a sugar free diet, doesn’t mean you have to give up sweet treats. You can still have a healthy diet if you use natural sweeteners. Everybody likes a sweet treat now and then. That’s why natural sweeteners have become popular. Because more people are being diagnosed with diabetes and obesity an alternative to sugar is a good idea to decrease your risk.
We want the sweet taste of sugar, without the unhealthy side effects. Not all artificial sweeteners are healthy, and some may have scary side effects. We’ll look at the most natural sweeteners you can use to replace sugar in your diet. These sweeteners Do Not Contain Sugar! Natural sugars are not sweeteners. Natural sugars such as honey or dates are not sugar free, whereas natural sweeteners are totally sugar free. You can use these natural sweeteners in home made recipes, tea and coffee and even sugar free desserts. You might be interested in ten low carb diet tips for weight loss or building healthy habits for a healthy lifestyle in this post.
Note: sugar substitute and artificial sweetener are used interchangeably in the food manufacturing industry. Therefore if you’re avoiding artificial sweeteners you should check the nutrition label for the ingredients used in food products.
Which Natural Sweeteners Are The Healthiest?
Three of the best natural sweeteners are:
Many people get confused between natural sugar, and natural sweetener. If you want a sugar free diet, you need sweeteners which don’t provide sugar! Natural sugars are ingredients like honey or agave. However these are not sugar free!
Types of Artificial Sweeteners
There’s many types of sweeteners on the market. Some are completely artificial meaning they’re non-nutritive sweeteners. These sweeteners are made in science labs. Artificial sweeteners have a bad reputation due to the fact that they’re not natural at all. Some scary health warnings have been released in the media over the years, but the jury is still out. Some examples of artificial sweeteners are:
Some are derived from plants and considered more natural sweeteners because there’s less processing to produce the sweetener. Some of the sweeteners below may cause tummy upset because they’re sugar alcohols. We’ll talk about sugar alcohols later in this article. Examples of natural sweeteners are:
Natural Sweetener Definition
The healthiest artificial sweeteners are the ones which are more natural. What is natural exactly? Natural sweeteners either come from plant products or are processed as little as possable. Most natural sweeteners like stevia do not have calories, but some do, such as xylitol. If you’re cutting out sugar for weight loss or diabetes, you may benefit from choosing a natural sweetener which does not contain calories.
Which Natural Sweeteners Are Best For A Sugar Free Diet?
This guide will give you an in-depth look at three natural sweeteners: stevia, erythritol, and xylitol. All three are natural sugar free substitutes. Once you’ve read up on these sweeteners, you can decide which is the best natural sweetener for you. Let’s start with the most popular natural sweetener, stevia.
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a natural sweetener which comes from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. The leaves have sweet compounds called steviol glycosides, which are extracted and then purified.
The stevia plant is native to South America. Paraguay natives used it centuries ago to sweeten their bitter drinks, while in ancient Ayurvedic medicine it’s been used for medicinal purposes. Today it’s used all over the world as a natural sugar substitute in foods, beverages and medicines. Organic stevia is also an option if you’re trying to get healthy while using natural sweeteners.
How Many Calories In Stevia?
Stevia has zero calories and is over 300 times sweeter than table sugar. However, although stevia is very sweet, it can leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. Because stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, you will need less of it to get the same level of sweetness, so it’s not a 1:1 substitution. Remember to use only a very small amount and taste test as you add more.
Is Stevia Good Or Bad For Health?
- Balancing blood sugar. According to studies, stevia can help regulate blood sugar and may be particularly beneficial for people with insulin resistance and diabetes. Insulin is the hormone that transports glucose (sugar) into the cells after a meal. In people with insulin resistance, the cells fail to respond to insulin, and the sugar in the blood remains high despite the presence of insulin. When this happens, the body has no choice but to release more insulin. Too much insulin can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. One study in 19 healthy lean and 12 obese individuals showed that stevia significantly lowered insulin and glucose levels after meals.
- Lowering blood pressure. Stevia has been shown in studies to relax the arteries and lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
- Weight management. Stevia offers a zero calorie alternative substitute to sugar without having to sacrifice sweet taste, and may assist with weight control and with reducing sugar craving.
- Reducing cholesterol. A study of 20 women with high cholesterol found that consumption of stevia helped in reducing triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol), while slightly increasing HDL (‘good’ cholesterol).
- Anti-tumour. Animal studies suggest that stevia leaf extract can inhibit cancer tumours.
Is Stevia safe?
Stevia is considered safe for people of all ages in reasonable quantities and has never been shown to cause any allergic reactions. Major global organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established an Acceptable Daily Intake of 4 mg/kg body weight for safe use. Which of course no one will ever count while they go about cooking healthy recipes using stevia! However its a good idea to keep in mind that anything in excess is probably not a good thing, and natural sweeteners like stevia are no different.
Stevia Dangers and Side Effects?
It’s worth noting, in order to improve the taste, some manufacturers blend in other sweeteners, such as dextrose, maltodextrin, and sugar alcohols such as maltitol. Blended stevia products may raise your blood sugar or cause digestive discomfort, depending on ratios and other ingredients. Remember to read the label and check the ingredients before buying artificially sweetened products.
Use caution if you are:
- Pregnant. The safety of stevia during pregnancy has only been tested in animal studies, where it did not affect fertility or pregnancy outcomes. However, because there are no data on the outcomes of use of Stevia during human pregnancies, it is best to avoid using it.
- Taking medications for high blood pressure. Because of its blood lowering effects, stevia may cause your blood pressure to go too low. Use in moderation.
- Taking Medications for diabetes. Taking stevia along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
- Taking Lithium. Stevia may affect the amount of lithium in the body and result in serious side effects. Consult with your doctor before using stevia if you are taking lithium.
What Are Sugar Alcohols?
Both erythritol and xylitol are sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates with a chemical structure similar alcohol, but they do not contain ethanol, which is found in alcoholic drinks. Sugar alcohols can be found in sugar-free lollies, chewing gum, mints, chocolates, diet foods and drinks, baked goods and ice cream. Also in some toothpastes and mouth washes. Other examples of sugar alcohols include sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol.
What Is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a common sugar alcohol that is naturally found in many fruit and vegetables. It is mostly derived from birch bark sourced from the USA or corn from China.
How Many Calories are in Xylitol?
Xylitol contains one-third less calories than sugar – around 2.4 kcal/g (sugar contains 4 kcal/g). It’s sweetness is similar to sugar. Because xylitol contains almost as many calories as sugar, it’s worth noting there are better alternatives if using natural sweeteners for weight loss or diabetes.
- Oral health. While sugar is harmful for our teeth, chewing xylitol-containing gum after meals has been shown in several studies to reduce the growth of dental plaque, to inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth, and to decrease the incidence of tooth decay or cavities.
- Blood sugar. Xylitol is considered “indigestible sugar”, meaning it’s not completely absorbed or metabolised by the body. It’s slow absorption it only causes a slight increase in blood sugar and insulin levels, and be useful as an alternative to sugar for people with insulin resistance.
- Weight Loss. A study in rats found that xylitol reduces the storage of visceral fat. This is the abdominal fat that’s stored around important organs such as your liver. This type of fat is a major risk factor for chronic diseases.
- Chronic constipation. Xylitol has been successfully used to alleviate constipation due to it’s laxative effects. Beware: If you consume lots of xylitol you may get the runs!
Is Xylitol Safe?
Xylitol is generally regarded as safe for use, although an Acceptable Daily Intake has not been specified. There are no known drug interactions with xylitol.
The main side effect is abdominal discomfort. Because xylitol is not fully absorbed, the majority of xylitol reaches the large intestine where it’s fermented by gut bacteria. The fermentation produces gas, which causes abdominal bloating and diarrhoea in some people. Xylitol in drinks normally causes more diarrhoea than in solid foods. Small amounts of xylitol can be consumed in tea and coffee, but it’s best to avoid large doses.
Everyone’s slightly different, so start with small doses at a time to test your tolerance. If you use xylitol and notice bloating or gas, you might consider trying an a different sweetener such as swerve or natvia which generally don’t have this side effect.
- On FODMAP diet
- If you suffer from inflammatory bowl disease.
- Pregnant or breast-feeding. Do not use xylitol if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. There is just not enough data regarding its safety in pregnancy.
- Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause death. Please keep Xylitol away from your pets!
Where Can You Buy Xylitol?
Xylitol is available in most grocery stores and health food stores now. It’s affordable and easy to find.
What is Erythritol?
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol found naturally in some fruits such as pears and watermelon. Erythritol can also be produced by fermentation from corn or wheat starch.
Erythritol is typically used as a bulk sweetener in low calorie foods. It’s sometimes combined with stevia to improve flavour. The most common brand names for this combination are Swerve and Natvia.
Where Can You Buy Erythritol?
Erythritol is available in grocery stores, health food shops and online. Its usually sold in a combination formula such as swerve.
If you’re in Australia or New Zealand Natvia is easily found in both Woolworths and Coles. If you’re in the US, Swerve is easily found in health food stores, grocery stores or online.
How Many Calories Does Erythritol Have?
Erythritol has almost zero calories. It’s less sweet than sugar, about 60% to 80% of sugar.
- No calorie natural sweetener! Erythritol is so low in calories and actually tastes pretty good in desserts, tea and coffee. This is a great sweeteners for low calories diets or sugar free diets!
- Oral health. Erythritol can protect against dental carries.
- Blood sugar. Erythritol does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels and is suitable for people with diabetes.
- Antioxidant. Erythritol acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells against the damage done by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced by our body when our body digests food or from, tobacco smoke, air pollutants, industrial chemicals, and exposure to X-rays. Antioxidants may also be effective in reducing diabetic complications.
Does Erythritol Have Side Effects?
Erythritol is well tolerated and safe to use even in large quantities with no signs of toxicity. Unlike xylitol, erythritol is mostly absorbed. Erythritol is excreted by the kidneys in urine, and does not cause bloating or diarrhoea.
Erythritol is an excellent natural sugar substitute! Only one study reported a negative effect. This new study found that erythritol was associated with weight gain and increased abdominal fat. The study analysed blood samples and body measurements of 172 young adults during their first university year. Surprisingly, those students who gained weight and abdominal fat over the course of the year had significantly higher erythritol in their blood compared with the students who did not gain any weight.
The Best Sugar Substitute For Your Weight Loss Plan :
If you have diabetes or insulin resistance and you crave something sweet, the natural sweeteners – stevia, xylitol and erythritol – are all good choices. When losing weight, reducing your overall intake of sweeteners, whether they are natural or artificial, is probably a good idea because we need to overcome the habit of reaching for sweet foods. Sugary foods are comforting, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out! So when it comes to weight loss, avoiding sweets as much as possible to help to break the habit of eating sweets will help you to lose weight naturally. However, in reality we’ll all crave sweets from time to time, so in these situations using natural sweeteners such as stevia, xylitol or Erythritol can help both keep blood sugars stable for fat loss and keep sugar cravings at bay.
You Might Like
Finding healthy recipes using sweeteners such as swerve or natvia is very easy these days. Both of these sweeteners are a combination of stevia and Erythritol. Personally I prefer this combination because it’s easy to cook with and it tastes great once the finished product is ready. If you’re on a low carb diet or keto diet, finding low carb desserts is essential so you can stick with your weight loss plan.
Share your thought in the comments. Which sweetener do you think will suit you best?