Fresh Stevia Rebaudiana and sugar in a spoon

Healthy Sugar Alternatives

 

Understanding both healthy & not so healthy sugars with their Glycemic Index & Load

Is there such a thing as healthy sugar?

Our body needs sugar to survive. But what we don’t need is refined sugars. Anyone suffering from an over abundance of Candida should limit their fruits, choose them wisely, and forget about sweets in general until the Candida is under control. This goes for those suffering from diabetes and any fungal, viral, or bacterial infection as well. If you do suffer from Candida problems we recommend Thorne SF722. It kills Candida better than anything we know of. A good probiotic to help rebuild the healthy gut flora is recommended too.

In nature, we don’t eat a lot of sugar, and none of it is refined. Besides wrecking havoc on our bodies in a few different way, sugar feeds fungus, bacteria, viruses, and other parasites. Consuming refined sugars radically lowers the body’s immune system and leads to allergies, both seasonal and food allergies.

Many people consider themselves healthy but suffer from certain ailments due to their sugar intake. In many cases, these people do not realize that the alternative healthier sugar choices they make still contribute to health problems. Sugars like brown rice syrup, honey, coconut palm sugar, and apple juice are still refined sugars and should be used sparingly. Maple syrup and dates are other sweeteners that, depending on your definition are not necessarily refined, but still are sugars none the less and need to be limited as well. If you or someone you know suffers from seasonal allergies or chronic Candida overgrowth, give up the honey, the brown rice syrup, the agave, and any other sweetener save stevia, completely for a week and see what happens. We bet the results will surprise you.

The reality is that junk food, wether made with healthier sugar substitutes or high fructose corn syrup is still junk food. Healthy foods are whole foods, and whole foods should be the foundation of anyone’s diet.

Glucose

Glucose is the simple sugar made by the body through digestion of carbohydrates. It is the body’s chief source of energy. Sometimes glucose is called dextrose.

Sucrose

Sucrose is what we commonly refer to as table sugar. It is made from highly processed sugar cane or sugar beets. The composition of sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose, which separates during digestion. Pure sucrose is devoid of any nutrients.

Fructose

Fructose, commonly called fruit sugar, is a simple sugar found in honey, tree fruits, berries, and melons. But don’t be fooled into thinking fructose on a label means you are eating fruit sugar. Pure crystalline fructose comes from two sources: corn or sucrose (table sugar). Corn starch is processed to release fructose. Sucrose (table sugar) is enzymatically hydrolyzed to separate into glucose and fructose. Crystalline fructose is pure fructose from one of these two sources.

High Fructose Syrups

High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from starches like corn, wheat, and rice. High fructose syrups contain nearly equal amounts of glucose and fructose, a composition nearly identical to sucrose (table sugar). The reason high fructose corn syrup is so abundant in our processed food is simple-it’s cheaper than sugar. Because we highly subsidize corn and place tariffs on sugar imports, high fructose corn syrup is much less expensive.

Pure fructose is 1.2-1.8 times sweeter than sucrose so less is needed for the same level of sweetness. It is low on the glycemic index, therefore it does not lead to peaks and dips in the body’s glucose levels. But fructose is processed in the liver. When too much fructose enters the liver at once, the liver can’t process fructose as a sugar. Instead, the liver turns excess fructose into fats-triglycerides. When you incorporate these fats into our bodies cells (the cell membranes) triglycerides cause these cells to be insulin resistant. This is the reason that high fructose corn syrup leads to diabetes. Fructose is linked to significant increases of both cholesterol and triglycerides. And remember-fructose, like sucrose-is a highly refined processed sugar devoid of any nutrition.

Also check out Issue 5, High Fructose Corn Syrup, A Not So Sweet Surprise

Maltose

Maltose, also known as malt sugar, is half as sweet as sucrose (table sugar). It is produced from starch (barley, wheat, rice or other grains). It has been produced in China since 200 B.C. We use it in making beer and as an additive to some processed foods.

In our bodies, maltose is formed as the first step in digestion of starchy foods. It is then broken down into glucose.

Lactose

Lactose is the sugar found naturally in milk.

Date Sugar

Date sugar is 100% dehydrated dates ground into small pieces. It is a whole food, high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Date sugar can be substituted for granulated sugar or brown sugar cup for cup, but it does not dissolve in liquids. Most alternative health practitionars consider Date Sugar to be a healthy sugar alternative.

Sugar Alcohols or Polyols

Maltitol, maltitol syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol, lakanto, erythritol, and isomalt are examples of sugar alcohols. They occur naturally in plants, but are usually manufactured from sugars and starches. Sugar alcohols have fewer calories than sugars because they are not completely absorbed by the body. They can ferment in the intestines and cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Information on Xylitol from Natural News:

Health Claims

It is obvious to me, as it might be to you, that xylitol, in addition to killing bacteria, will probably kill just about anything. This clearly explains why it is only recommended to be used in small doses. Yet if you go to a health food store, you will see larger sized bags of xylitol on the shelf, promoting its many health uses.

Health Concerns

In lab tests, xylitol will kill a rat 50% of the time in a dosage of 16.5 grams of xylitol for every 1000 grams of rat. Medium rats weigh 100-120 grams, or say .25 pounds. That means, to kill a 100 gram rat, you need only to get the rat to consume, 1.65 grams of xylitol.

A typical xylitol piece of gum contains .7 – 1 gram of xylitol. About half the amount needed to kill a rat. I read of a study stating that humans consumed up to 400 grams of xylitol per day without any ill health effects. I find that hard to believe that such a study is accurate in comparison to the lab tests done as indicated on the material safety data sheets. If 1.65 grams can kill a rat, consuming 400 grams would be highly toxic to humans.

Learn more at Natural News

Glycemic Index

When carbohydrates are digested, glucose is released into the bloodstream. The glycemic index is a comparative measurement of the amount of glucose released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period.

Foods that rapidly release glucose rate high on the glycemic index (GI). Foods that slowly release glucose are low on the glycemic index. Mixing high and low GI foods can result in a moderate glucose release.

But the GI rating alone does not give you all of the information you need to determine a food’s effect on your blood sugar. It only tells you how quickly the carbs in a food should turn into sugar in your blood. The glycemic load or GL tells you how much of that carb the food contains. And of course the amount you eat of that particular food is also a huge factor in the rise of your blood sugar.

Foods ranked low on the GI scale release glucose slowly and steadily without a sudden spike of glucose in the blood.  A spike in glucose results in a large insulin release, which is more likely to store glucose as fat rather than use it as fuel. Plus a high release of insulin often results in a rapid drop in blood sugar, causing hunger. So you eat candy. Your blood sugar spikes. Insulin is released. Your blood sugar drops. You eat more candy. The sugar rollercoaster ride begins.

It is important to remember that the GI scale is simply a comparative scale; it compares one food’s blood glucose response to another. There are many other factors to consider when choosing your food. Start with the basic question. Is this food dense with nutrients?

The Best Sugars

When baking, or for coffee and teas, honey would not be used since the heat destroys the natural benefits. Stevia does not bake well and it has a funny aftertaste to most people, but we love it in lemonade and cranberry juice, as well as many teas. If forced to a favorite, sugar cane juice, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar are  our  top choices when used sparingly. While we are not a fan of agave, sugar alcohols, or using very much of any refined sugars, a mix of  them can be a healthier choice for baking and other recipes that call for sweeteners. Using a little bit of agave, some lactitol, some stevia, and sugar cane juice or coconut palm sugar can be a great way to lesson the adverse effects of any one type of surer while still getting a very nice, well rounded sweet taste.

Sugars & Substitutes with their Glycemic Index & Load

Glycemic indexes and loads are an average based on a wide variety of sources that base their findings on a glucose scale. These figures are estimates. The accurate glycemic index and the glycemic load for each individual person varies depending on many factors including body composition and other foods that are being digested at the same time.

If you know of some good glycemic load resources for sweeteners please leave us a comment, as they are lacking on the internet.

Sweeteners
Index/Load
Information
Artificial Sweeteners
N/A
Never a Healthy Sugar Alternative
All artificial chemical sweeteners are toxic and can indirectly lead to weight gain, the very reason many people consume them. They should be avoided. In fact, given a choice between high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, we recommend high fructose corn syrup by far (though it’s essentially asking if you should consume poison or worse poison).
Stevia
0/0
Best Healthy Sugar Alternative
Though it is 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, stevia is not a sugar. Unlike other popular sweeteners, it has a glycemic index rating of less than 1 and therefore does not feed candida (yeast) or cause any of the numerous other problems associated with sugar consumption. Read more about stevia here on OLM. Please note that Stevia and Truvia are not the same thing. Truvia is an artificial sweetener.
Date Sugar and Dried Dates
103/40
Many health advocates use dates as there sweetener but others point to the very high glycemic index and load at reason to stay away from dates.
Xylitol
7/9
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol sweetener found in the fibers of fruits and vegetables which can cause bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence with initial consumption. It’s said to be safe for pregnant women, and is said to possibly treat ear infections, osteoporosis, respiratory infections, candida, and is it even helps fight cavities. In fact, in Finland, virtually all chewing gum is sweetened with xylitol.
Agave Nectar
10-30/
1-10
A sweet syrup made from the Blue Agave plant, Agave Nectar is obtained by the extraction and purification of “sap” from the agave plant, which is broken down by natural enzymes into the monosaccharides (simple sugars): mainly fructose (70-75%) and dextrose (20-26%). Read more about agave nectar at OLM.
Fructose
10-19/
0
Though fructose has a low glycemic index rating, fructose consumption should be limited. Fructose is linked to heart disease as it raises triglycerides and cholesterol. It is devoid of nutrition.
Brown Rice Syrup
25 -65?/
?
It is not recommended for diabetics, since its sweetness comes from maltose which is known to cause spikes in blood sugar. The range on the glycemic index for this sweetener is not due to a range found within different brands or sources. There is considerable debate as to what the glycemic index is on this sweetener, and a GI rating of 25 while most often reported by manufactures of the syrup seems far fetched and unlikely. Little research has been done and a wide range of GIs have been reported. We could not find the glycemic load anywhere.
Raw Honey
25-50/
15-30
A Healthy Sugar Alternative in moderation, but…
With antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients, raw, unprocessed honey is considered a superfood by many alternative health care practitioners and a remedy for many health ailments. Choose your honey wisely. Different honeys have different glycemic indexes. There is nothing beneficial about processed honey. Honey does not retain its healthy properties when cooked, this includes being used in hot coffee or tea. Read more about honey
Coconut Palm Sugar
35/1
Originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm , the date palm or sugar date palm (Phoenix sylvestris). It’s also made from the sap of coconut palms. With a relatively low glycemic index, Coconut palm sugar is the new rage among health nuts. It’s often called “coconut nectar sugar” or “coconut sugar”. Note that some coconut palm sugar is mixed with cane sugar, and the brands that do this should be avoided.
Apple Juice
40/10
Fresh has its health benefits but it still a concentrated and refined sugar. We recommend eating fresh raw whole apples and if you want to juice apples we recommend granny smiths. Concentrated apple juice (sometimes used as a sweetener) is a very concentrated refined sugar like white table sugar and should be avoided.
Barley Malt Syrup
42/?
Barley malt syrup is considered to be one of the healthiest sweeteners in the natural food industry. Barley malt is made by soaking and sprouting barley to make malt, then combining it with more barley and cooking this mixture until the starch is converted to sugar. The mash is then strained and cooked down to syrup or dried into powder.
 Amazake
43/?
This is an ancient, Oriental whole grain sweetener made from cultured brown rice. It has a thick, pudding-like consistency. It’s not easy to find in the U.S., but it is a great alternative to refined table sugar.
Sugar Cane Juice
43/?
Healthy Sugar Alternative in moderation
Sugar cane juice has many nutrients and other beneficial properties and is said by some health practitioners to be almost as medicinal as raw honey.
Organic Sugar
60-65/?
Organic sugar comes from sugar cane grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. It is usually darker than traditional white sugar because it contains some molasses. (It has usually been processed to the degree, or close to it, as regular white sugar is processed).
Maple Syrup
54/?
Maple syrup is made by boiling sap collected from natural growth maple trees during March & April. It is refined sap and is therefore processed.  It has a high glycemic index, and though it is much more nutritious then refined table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, there are better choices.
Evaporated Cane Juice
55/?
Evaporated cane juice is often considered unrefined sugar, but juicing is a refining process, and evaporating refines further. Though better than turbinado, cane juice (unevaporated) is a better choice as a sweetener.
Black Strap Molasses
55/?
White refined table sugar is sugar cane with all the nutrition taken out. Black strap molasses is all of that nutrition that was taken away. A quality organic (must be organic!) molasses provides iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, and is alkalizing to the body.
Turbinado
65/?
Turbinado sugar is partially processed sugar, also called raw sugar.
Raw Sugar
Raw sugar
65/?
Raw sugar is not actually raw sugar. It is processed, though not as refined as common white table sugar. Therefore, given a choice between raw and white, choose raw. There are many different variations of raw sugar with many different names depending on how refined it is.
Cola (and most other sodas)
70/?
Though cola has a lower GI ranking then some might expect, there are many other reasons to avoid cola, or any type of soda. There is nothing beneficial to the human body inside a can of soda (not to mention we should avoid drinking out of aluminum cans!).
Corn Syrup
75/?
Corn syrup has very little nutrition and should be avoided.
Refined, Pasteurized Honey
40-75/
10-22
The nutrition is gone, and there is often high fructose corn syrup added to processed honey. Refined pasteurized honey is no better than white table sugar.
Refined Table Sugar
65/7
Conventionally grown, chemically processed, and striped of all beneficial properties, many health advocates believe that refined sugar is one of the two leading causes (high fructose corn syrup is the other) of nearly every health ailment known to man (or woman or child). Not only does it have a high GI ranking, but it also is extremely acidic to the body causing calcium and other mineral depletion from bones and organs (sugar is alkaline but has a very acidic effect on the body).
High Fructose Corn Syrup
60-87/?
Many health advocates believe that high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar are the two biggest contributors to health ailments in our society. High fructose corn syrup is a combination of sucrose and fructose.
Glucose (AKA Dextrose)
100/?
White bread was the benchmark, but for consistency glucose now holds the rating at 100.
Maltodextrin
150/?
Foods that have maltodextrin often say “Low Sugar” or “Complex Carbohydrate”, but this sweetener should be avoided!

Please note that the glycemic index numbers here are estimates. There are many variables that help determine how quickly a sugar is absorbed. These numbers represent an average of many different respected studies. In addition, it is very important to note that the glycemic index and the glycemic load do not define what is a healthy sugar and what is an unhealthy sugar. There are many other variables.

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is the founder, owner, editor-in-chief, and janitor for Organic Lifestyle Magazine. At age 17, Michael weighed more than 360 pounds. He suffered from allergies, frequent bouts of illness, and chronic, debilitating insomnia.

Conventional medicine wasn’t working. While he restored his health through alternative medicine he studied natural health and became immersed in it.

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