Why are we scared of sugar? Back in the Paleolithic era some tribes obtained up to 80% of their calories from honey during the honey seasons and others up to 20% on a daily basis.
The reason we are scared of sugar is because of the type of sugar we are consuming. Sugar intake has increased from 13% to 16% since 1977, and more than 3/4th of this increase was due to the increase in sugar-sweetened beverages, rather than whole food sugars.
The sweet taste of sugar is strongly tied to the reward centers of our brain, which can relieve pain and reduce depression and stress. This is why sugar leaves us wanting more; wouldn't you want more of something that made you happy and feeling relieved or less stress? However, refined, white sugar can provoke immune response in the gut, which can lead to gut inflammation and a compromised immune system, since the gut makes up about 80% of the immune system.
Honey was a staple in the Paleolithic era and contains both fructose (sugar in fruit) and glucose with multiple proteins, enzymes, minerals, and other phytonutrients. Studies show great health benefits while SUPPLEMENTING 3-5 Tbsp of honey each day. Specifically studies show 3.5 Tbsp/d have many beneficial physiological effects including increasing antioxidant levels and decreasing cholesterol-based levels, blood sugar, etc. levels while reducing inflammation. For most benefits be sure to consume honey unheated, and not to ADD honey to diet, but rather supplement it for refined (white) sugar.
This is a zero-calorie sweetener of which studies have shown may decrease blood pressure when taking at least 500 mg of stevioside powder three times per day. A small study showed that a 5-gram dose of stevia extract four times a day for three days improved glucose tolerance and improved insulin sensitivity and liver/kidney function. Ultimately, it is not a bad sweetener option, especially in those who have blood sugar control issues and desire non-caloric sweetener; however, everything in moderation.
MAPLE SYRUP, COCONUT SUGAR & MOLASSES
These three natural sweeteners are made mainly of sucrose with some fructose and glucose; with molasses having nutrients including one fifth of your daily needs of potassium, as well as calcium, B6, iron and magnesium just from one Tbsp. All three are lower than table sugar (65) on the glycemic index with coconut sugar falling the lowest at 35. Glycemic index values food on how quickly it will cause your blood sugar to spike. These all have favorable fructose:glucose ratios, which is important for those with fructose intolerances or those with gut (GI) problems. If you have either of these issues, I would recommend staying far away from agave nectar, as it has the highest fructose content of almost all sweeteners! Maple syrup has little clinical significance in humans; however, suggests it may have anticancer/antioxidant /type 2 diabetes management properties.
Natural sweeteners conclusion
Overall, mollases, coconut sugar, and maple syrup can be thought of as refined sugar alternatives. They are natural, minimally process (depending on the brand; remember, we want quality not quantity) with some minerals. If you are looking to replace refined/white sugar to improve health with positive benefits, research suggests honey & stevia would be your best bet!
artificial sweeteners cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome...false!
The media has engrained into our heads that artificial sweeteners cause all these issues, but where is that evidence? Chris Kresser (click for more info) reviewed multiple studies that showed little clinical evidence to prove these to be true of artificial sweeteners. Two studies came out in the past 7 years with concerns of pre-term infancy and artificial sweeteners; however, It is difficult to get accurate information with human studies as there are so many factors that play into ones body; activity, diet, stress, smoking, drinking, etc. So if you are having infertility issues or plan on becoming pregnant, I would recommend staying away from these sweeteners to be safe.
sugar-free sweeteners confuse the body
Think about it, if you had "sugar" going into your body but was not raising your blood sugar or triglycerides wouldn't you think your body would be a little bit confused? Well, studies done on rats show that those fed with artificial sweeteners consistently gained more weight than the rats fed with glucose or sucrose. Those rats rarely lost the excess weight even after their diets were reversed. Interesting enough, stevia rats gained significantly more weight than glucose-fed rats, and the rats fed with artificial sweeteners developed impaired ability to respond to sugar contained foods.
Conclusion: should you consume artificial sweeteners?
Although it hasn't been proven that artificial sweeteners remain as scary as they were once said to be, I still would not recommend including them in your daily diet. Think about it, you're putting something with the word "artificial" into your body. To me that sounds potentially harmful and something I don't really want in me; try sticking to whole foods & honey if you can!
What are sugar alcohols? Are they better for us? are they safe?
Sugar alcohols are low-digestible carbohydrates that have reduced calories, low glycemic index, fiber and resistance starches (resist digestion); these alcohols are also known as polyols and are found in many fruits. Polyols are included in low FODMAP diets, which are mainly followed by those with digestive issues. This makes sense because sugar alcohols have been known to cause digestive stress and increase gas, GI pain and diarrhea. However, it has also been shown for most that after 1-2 months this distress tends to resolve.
sugar alcohol Conclusion
Overall, sugar alcohols have many therapeutic effects and studies have shown sugar alcohols may have prebiotic effects, which really isn't surprising considering fiber and resistant starches have prebiotic effects as well. Although there are benefits from sugar alcohols, I would not recommend large or regular consumption of these, but if you are in need of a low-calorie sugar substitute I would say to try sugar alcohols over artificial sweeteners. Bai drinks (in my Instagram picture @beautifullprofit) are just one drink that has Erythritol, which is most easily digested and a good substitute for low sugar drink; however, doesn't have as many benefits as Xylitol and is not someone I would recommend consuming on a daily basis!