Each year more than 35 million people die from non-infectious diseases. And In a recent report, The World Health Organization (WHO) targeted tobacco, alcohol, and diet as the most significant risk factors in the development of non-communicable illness. Of the three, smoking and alcohol consumption are tightly regulated by government agencies around the world to protect public health; which means that one of the most important contributing factors to a growing worldwide health crisis remains uncontrolled. In the last 50 years, added-sugar consumption has more than tripled in the developed world; which is alarming because a substantial sector of the medical community refuses to acknowledge the toxic nature of sugar, instead focusing on fat and salt consumption as the main culprits in our deteriorating health.
However, there is increasing evidence that links the consumption of dietary added-sugars to higher incidences of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and various other chronic diseases. Unregulated sugar consumption represents a substantial threat to our health for the following reasons:
Sugar is virtually unavoidable: Healthy, balanced diets contain naturally occurring sugars; however, modern Western diets are replete with sugar-laden processed foods. Therefore, consumer choice in the matter is severely limited.
Sugar is highly toxic: Epidemiological and statistical evidence strongly argues that sugar consumption is capable of inducing a wide range of metabolic disorders and various other harmful health conditions. Further, there is evidence to suggest that sugar exerts the same level of toxicity on the liver as alcohol.
Sugar is addictive: Sugar acts on neurological pathways much the same as other highly addictive drugs. Sugar triggers our brain’s opiate receptors, which leads to compulsive behaviors. Furthermore, sugar also inhibits dopamine signaling within the brain’s reward center which leads to higher consumption over time.
Unfortunately, sugar tastes good and is relatively inexpensive, so food manufacturers around the world choose to ignore the mounting evidence against the unregulated consumption of sugar.
Artificial Sugar Alternatives
Artificial sweeteners are used throughout the world as viable sugar substitutes in an extraordinary number of foods, beverages, and sanitary products such as mouthwashes. Artificial sweeteners also provide close to zero caloric value and are therefore highly sought by the dietary product industry.
However, there is plenty of evidence that suggests that perhaps artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative to sugars after all. Mountains of clinical data strongly indicate that artificial sweeteners cause a host of adverse side effects. Artificial sugars habitually cause symptoms that range from headaches and migraines to weight gain. Some artificial sweeteners have even been linked to more serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The most common artificial sweeteners are:
Acesulfame: first introduced to the market in the 1980s, Acesulfame Potassium, also known as ACE-K, is 200 times sweeter than sugar. There are concerns that Acesulfame is highly carcinogenic. It has also been explicitly linked to mood disorders as well as decreased liver and kidney function
Aspartame: Aspartame is ubiquitous in our food supply although it is predominantly used in soft drink and medicine manufacture. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and has been linked to impaired memory, reduced cognitive function, and increased oxidative stress in the brain. Additionally, aspartame has been linked to a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome disorders in babies of mothers who consumed it while pregnant.
Saccharin: Saccharin was one of the first artificial sweeteners introduced to the market. Saccharin is found in everything from toothpaste to canned vegetables. This artificial sweetener is close to 500 times as sweet as sugar. Saccharin has been linked to digestive disorders, tachycardia, and most alarmingly, bladder cancer.
Natural Sugar Alternatives
Because artificial sweeteners generate side effects that are potentially detrimental to our health, and most provide no substantial benefits to suggest their consumption over sugar is preferred, we have compiled a list of 15 healthy alternatives to sugars and artificial sweeteners. These natural alternatives can provide our palate with just enough sweetness to make us forget about sugars and artificial sweeteners for good.
Raw Honey: Unprocessed honey is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants. Raw honey is also highly antibacterial and antifungal.
Agave Nectar: Agave Nectar is made from a plant similar to the Agave used in Tequila distillation. Agave nectar has a high fructose content, which your body can still convert to glucose, so use with moderation.
Maple Syrup: Maple syrup has been in use for centuries as a healthy and natural alternative to sugar. It is essential to consume authentic maple syrup as there are plenty of fake products on the market that are made out of high fructose corn syrup.
Balsamic Syrup: Balsamic syrup is made by reducing balsamic vinegar and concentrating its flavors. Balsamic syrup is a tasty alternative to sugar that can provide beneficial effects to our digestive health thanks in part to its high pepsin content.
Apple Sauce: Homemade applesauce is a great alternative to artificial sweeteners, especially when baking. Avoid store-bought products as these tend to contain added sugars.
Xylitol: Xylitol is a non-fermentable sugar alcohol that can be freely used to substitute sugars and artificial sweeteners in virtually all recipes as it mixes well with other ingredients
Sorghum Syrup: Made out of sweet sorghum grass, sorghum syrup is great to eat with biscuits, pancakes, and cereals.
Stevia: Extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant, Stevia is a non-fermentable alternative to artificial sweeteners that is almost 150 times as sweet as sugar.
Palm Sugar: Palm sugar is derived from the sap of the palm tree. It contains a good amount of vitamins and minerals.Advertisement
Dates: When pureed, these tasty fruits can provide us with a delicious and natural alternative to artificial sweeteners that is rich in fiber, various minerals, and Vitamin B.
Raisins: Thanks to a high content of natural sugars, organic raisins can be used as a natural sweetener by blending or pureeing them.
Molasses: Molasses is a nutrient-rich food made by boiling away the fructose from raw sugar. This thick, dark, syrup is a delicious and healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners and white sugar alike.
Bananas: A puree made from overripe bananas can serve as a sweet and healthy alternative to sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Fruit Juice: The naturally occurring fructose found in natural fruit juice can help to sweeten any recipe. Additionally, many fruits are rich in powerful antioxidants and vitamins.
Monk Fruit: Also known as Luo Han Guo, monk fruit is an exotic and delicious fruit native to China and Thailand. Syrup made from monk fruit can be 300 times as sweet as sugar and can provide a plethora of anti-inflammatory benefits to boot.
- Johnson, Rachel K., et al. “Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association.” Circulation 120.11 (2009): 1011-1020.
- Reiser, S. “Effect of dietary sugars on metabolic risk factors associated with heart disease.” Nutrition and health 3.4 (1985): 203-216.
- Frayn, Keith N., and Susan M. Kingman. “Dietary sugars and lipid metabolism in humans.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 62.1 (1995): 250S-261S.
- Johnson, Richard J., et al. “Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease–.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 86.4 (2007): 899-906.
- Morgan, Robert W., and Meera G. Jain. “Bladder cancer: smoking, beverages and artificial sweeteners.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 111.10 (1974): 1067.
- Weihrauch, M. R., and V. Diehl. “Artificial sweeteners—do they bear a carcinogenic risk?.” Annals of Oncology 15.10 (2004): 1460-1465.
- Swithers, Susan E. “Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements.” Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism 24.9 (2013): 431-441.
- Chattopadhyay, Sanchari, Utpal Raychaudhuri, and Runu Chakraborty. “Artificial sweeteners–a review.” Journal of food science and technology 51.4 (2014): 611-621.
- Boushey, Carol J., et al., eds. Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease. Elsevier, 2001.