The Best (and Worst) Sweeteners for Your Body

Which sugar should you choose?

by Rachel Khanna

In a 1975 book called Sugar Blues, the author William Dufty wrote, “As a steady diet, sugar is worse than nothing. Plain water can keep you alive for quite some time. Sugar and water can kill you … Sugar taken every day produces a continuously over-acid condition, and more and more minerals are required from deep in the body in the attempt to rectify the imbalance. Finally, in order to protect the blood, so much calcium is taken from the bones and teeth that decay and general weakening begin.”

In spite of this, sugar consumption in the United States has continued to increase year after year. Today we know that eating too much sugar can lead to immune and hormone impairment as well as conditions such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, hyperactivity, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

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And if that’s not enough, we know that sugar is highly addictive, high in calories and low in nutrition. So what can we do to approach sugar with caution while still enjoying the sweet life? For starters, here is a list of four sweeteners to remove from your pantry.

  • Cane sugar (also referred to as evaporated cane juice) is made by refining raw cane sugar. Essentially, the process involves stripping sugar cane of all its fiber, vitamins and minerals and then refining it. To make white sugar, sugar cane is crushed. The juice is processed and evaporated. Then the juice is bleached and deodorized. It takes 17 feet of sugar cane to yield one cup of sugar! There are no nutrients in cane sugar and, on the contrary, it depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a sugar made from cornstarch. It is used because it is a cheaper sweetener than cane sugar. HFCS is a very concentrated sweetener that wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels. The fructose in HFCS has been shown to convert to fat more than any other sugar. Large amounts of fructose have been shown to stimulate the liver’s ability to make fat. Also, fructose has been show to trigger hunger, whereas glucose will signal the brain to stop eating.
  • Artificial Sweeteners, such as Nutrasweet and Equal have been shown to contain neurotoxins which affect brain function, and cause autoimmune diseases and cancer.
  • “Natural sweeteners” Agave Nectar and Stevia are said to have originated in Latin America and are made of plant extracts. Due to increasing demand for agave nectar, current processing methods have likened agave nectar to high fructose corn syrup. Research is still out on Stevia, though how it goes from a plant to a fine white powder would indicate that it undergoes quite some processing.

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So instead of using processed, refined sugars, here are six natural sweeteners  that are minimally processed and can be found in most grocery stores’ natural health aisle or your neighborhood natural health store:  

  • Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar
  • Barley Malt or Brown Rice Syrup
  • Rapadura or Sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice)

Even in baking, you’ll find that these natural sweeteners will give your recipes the touch of sweetness they need—and satisfy your sweet tooth too—without wreaking havoc on your health!

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Rachel Khanna is a holistic health counselor, chef and author of the Live, Eat, Cook Healthy: Simple, fresh, and delicious recipes for balanced living. She trained at the renowned Institute of Culinary Education. She founded Tiffin in Greenwich, Connecticut, her successful organic catering business. Later, she became a certified health counselor and food therapist through programs at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and the Natural Gourmet Institute, respectively. She continues to pursue her studies in holistic health.   

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