This post came as a request from a friend of mine, who’s also a fellow Scrounge follower. I'm so glad she requested this and I’m excited to finally be posting about it! Always feel free to let me know if there's something specific you want to know more about.
Let’s face it, most of us have a sweet tooth (guilty!), we are designed to enjoy sweet foods – but the more you stay away from added sugars the less you will crave it, trust me! The more natural real, whole, plant based foods you eat the better, which have naturally occurring sugars in them. Any food with carbohydrates will contain natural sugars like, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy.
There’s a lot of confusion around different sweeteners/added sugars, understandably so given there are so many of them now. I do suggest staying away from added sugars/sweeteners as much as possible, but if you are using a sweetener, there are some that are better than others. It’s important to consume added sugars in moderation because sugar is not a required nutrient in our diet.
When you do crave something sweet, keep this post in mind and choose your sweetener wisely and always in moderation. I’ve broken down the most common sweeteners and the pros and cons of each below. Overall any “added” sugar or sweetener is never great, but sometimes it’s ok to treat yo self! If I had to pick the healthiest option out of those listed below I choose, dates because they're a fruit and have the most health benefits.
I believe knowledge is power, so I hope by reading this you now feel better equipped to make healthy choices when grocery shopping or ordering that latte.
Comment below with any questions or feedback!
Please note, this information is all based off of my own research (sources listed below).
About: a natural sweetener from bees
Pros: none to little processing (depending on where you buy it), lower fructose content, more natural than agave, more health benefits than agave, the darker the honey the more antioxidants it has however the taste will be stronger the darker, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and can help reduce seasonal allergens
Cons: higher glycemic index than agave, higher calories than agave
About: a syrup from the blue agave plant
Pros: lower glycemic index than honey and refined sugar, slightly lower calories than honey, vegan (not really a pro or con but if you’re vegan you can have agave)
Cons: more processed than honey, higher fructose content
About: derived from the sap of sugar maple trees. When buying maple syrup be sure to read the label to ensure you're getting real maple syrup and not just flavored maple syrup, which will contain lots of added sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup, meaning it’s not natural!
Pros: contains minerals and antioxidants but these don’t offset it’s high sugar content, more natural than refined sugar, lower glycemic index than refined sugar
Cons: high in natural sugar content
About: derived from date palm tree
Pros: natural plant derived, whole food, excellent nutritional profile contains vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, low glycemic index
Cons: high in calories and natural sugars
About: is a plant. Be careful with this one, there isn’t a ton of information regarding how to determine if a product has real stevia in it
Pros: zero calories, plant based, in moderation it’s a good alternative to sugar for weight management, low glycemic index
Cons: not a lot of clear research on health benefits and risks, much sweeter than refined sugar so you only need little bit
About: derived from coconut palm tree
Pros: natural plant derived, contains minor amounts of nutrients like minerals and short-chained fatty acids, contains a fiber called inulin which may slow glucose absorption, lower glycemic index than refined sugar
Cons: high in calories, high fructose content, overall not too different than refined sugar but is natural vs. processed
About: a processed sugar
Pros: none that we know of
Cons: eating too much sugar can cause several health problems, not a required nutrient in your diet, avoid foods with any of these listed in the label, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar
About: hybrid of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules. Types of sugar alcohols include: Xylitol, Erythritol, Sorbitol, Maltitol. Erythritol seems to produce the fewest side effects.
Pros: low glycemic index, not artificial
Cons: fewer calories than refined sugar, can cause digestive problems and inflammation depending on the individual
BROWN RICE SYRUP:
About: derived from brown rice
Pros: 100% glucose, no fructose, health benefits such as dental health
Cons: high glycemic index higher than most other sweeteners on the market, little nutrients, high sugar content, arsenic has been found rice syrups and products sweetened with them
Sources: Healthline, Food network, Livestrong, Live science, Harvard Health