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Must know about Best And Worst Sugars

Worst Sugars

Having discussed the damaging effects of glucose and fructose, the following three types of sugars are the absolute worst for your health. They provide empty calories with very little nutritional value.

(Please note that artificial sweeteners are not mentioned here because these chemicals are almost like poison. If this were a perfect world, they would have already been made illegal and banned!)

1. Agave Nectar

Agave is currently the king of healthy sweeteners because of its low glycemic index and effect on blood sugar. It has been heavily promoted by its manufacturers and is used in almost all the “healthy” food products.

But knowing the detrimental effects of excess fructose on our health, how can agave be healthy when it contains up to 92% fructose?

Agave is a highly processed sweetener derived from the plant that makes tequila. No matter whether the agave is raw, organic, or blue, it is definitely the worst sweetener available on the market.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup

For many decades, food manufacturers have been using this sweetener because it is cheaper than sugar. It contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose. It is widely used in soft drinks, snack foods, and many processed foods. Tons of research have confirmed that high fructose corn syrup wreaks havoc on your health.

3. Sugars

The term sugar refers to sucrose or table sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beet. They include different forms of white granulated sugar, brown sugar, and raw turbinado sugar. Sugar is made of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Consuming too much will have the same detrimental health effects.

Best Sugars

The following sweeteners are listed in order of their safety, health benefits, and suitability for use by diabetics.

1. Stevia

Stevia (correct pronunciation is STE vee ah, not STEE vee uh) is a fascinating plant native to the rain forests of Paraguay in South America. For over 1,600 years and perhaps as long as 2,000 years, the natives used its leaves as a tonic to relieve stomach upset and a sweetener in brewing herbal teas.

Stevia is not a sugar, but an herb. Steviol glycosides are the compounds responsible for the sweet taste of the stevia leaves, and rebauioside A (Reb A) has the least bitterness of all the steviol glycosides. To extract Reb A, stevia plants are dried and subjected to a water extraction process.

Stevia was first adopted widely in Japan as a natural sugar substitute in 1970. After having banned artificial sweeteners in the 1960s, Japan began seriously researching the safety and anti-diabetic properties of stevia. Since then, Japanese food companies have been using stevia in numerous food products.

In the U.S., stevia was slow to gain popularity because the FDA did not permit stevia to be sold as a food additive (sweetener). Moreover, stevia faced severe opposition from both the artificial sweetener and sugar industries. It was not until the end of 2008 when stevia became available as both a food additive and a dietary supplement sold in health food stores.

Stevia is an extraordinary sweetener with a long history of use by humans. There are over 1,500 published studies that show stevia is not only safe but can also promote better health and well-being. Here are the highlights:

  • There is no evidence of gastrointestinal upset or toxicity causing cancer or birth defects.
  • It supports the pancreas, helps improve insulin sensitivity and reverse diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • It provides zero calories and zero carbohydrates.
  • It does not promote tooth decay and gum disease.
  • It helps reduce blood pressure.
  • It enhances mental acuity and cognitive functions.

Stevia is many times sweeter than sugar. It is heat-stable and can be used in cooking and baking. The stevia products on the market varies in terms of taste and sweetness. They usually come in the form of a white powder or a liquid concentrate.

There are many brands available on the market and many contain ingredients other than stevia. Make sure you choose one that does not contain dextrose or maltodextrin. Dextrose is a glucose and maltodextrin is a glucose polymer. Both are highly processed food additives that serve nothing to your health.

Several brands contain sugar alcohols. It is generally safe to use in small amounts as long as your body can tolerate them. That’s why it is preferable to choose a sweetener that does not list sugar alcohols as the first ingredient. (For more about sugar alcohols, please read Best Sugars #4).

Recommended brands

Stevita contains Reb A (stevia extract) and erythritol/xylitol (sugar alcohols).

Sweet Leaf contains inulin (natural soluble fiber) and stevia.

Not Recommended

Pure Via contains dextrose/maltodextrin, Reb A (stevia extract), cellulose powder, and natural flavors.

Stevia In the Raw contains dextrose and stevia.

Truvia contains erythritol (sugar alcohol), rebiana (stevia extract), and natural flavors.

2. Yacon Syrup

Yacon syrup is derived from the yacon plant, a tuber grown in the Andes by the Inca and their descendants. Yacon is related to the sunflowers, and the Peruvian locals use it cut up in salads or in sweets. The roots are rich in iron, potassium, and the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E.

Unlike other tubers that store carbohydrates as starch (glucose), yacon stores carbohydrates as fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS is a soluble fiber and a prebiotic which serves as food for the good intestinal bacteria, so it aids digestion and helps stimulate the colon. Since humans have no enzyme to digest FOS, it cannot be absorbed by the body and the carbohydrate is excreted whole through the system.

Studies show that a diet rich in FOS may help with weight management and lowering of blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. It increases absorption of calcium, magnesium, and the B vitamin complexes.

Yacon syrup is dark brown in color, very thick, sticky, and tastes like molasses. It can be used as a direct substitute for brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, or honey in cooking and baking. Yacon syrup has approximately 30 calories per tablespoon, which is half the amount of honey. Studies show that it has no adverse effect on blood sugar and can be safely used by diabetics. The only drawback is that it is not cheap; therefore, unless the price comes down, it is unlikely to be widely used.