Now that I’ve made my rant about Best Buy destroying my Chromebook, I’m going to leave you with one final blog post before I send it away to the computer hospital. A topic that’s been weighing on my mind lately is sugar consumption. It’s truly incredible how much sugar we’ve managed to stuff into almost every corner of the grocery store! Think you’re safe because you don’t eat sweets? Wrong! Do you eat bbq sauce? Ketchup? Stir fries? Shockingly, these sauces contain just as much sugar as a dessert would! What about plain vanilla yogurt, you argue, there’s probiotics in it so it’s good for you! Wrong again! Plain vanilla yogurt contains as much sugar as pudding. That’s right, you could be devouring chocolate pudding, but instead, misguided by advertising tactics, you’re suffering through a bowl of boring old vanilla yogurt. Not to mention that other foods, such as gluten-free bread products, low-fat products, and processed foods otherwise devoid of flavour pack on the sugar in hopes of developing an attractive caramelization/colour when cooking, but most of all to win over your tastebuds.
So it’s pretty safe to say that choosing to avoid sugar in this day and age is a task more easily said than done. Luckily, many, many other people are feeling the same way you are about sugar, and the market has responded with a barrage of sugar alternatives, everything from the proven cancer-causing aspartame to plant-based stevia. But which of those alternatives are good, and which are bad? Let’s briefly skim over the main ones together.
Stevia. Touted the most natural and favoured of all sugar substitutes, stevia gets its sterling reputation from the fact that it’s plant-derived, extracted from the sweet leaves of the stevia plant. However. Taking a stevia leaf and rubbing it onto toast or sinking it in your tea is different than the chemical process involved in extracting the stevia glucosides from the leaves, not to mention processing it into a white powdered form equivalent to twice the potency of table sugar. There are mixed reviews on the safety of stevia. In my personal opinion, I can’t stand the taste of the stuff; it has a similar taste to that of aspartame, and is completely overwhelming unless mixed with other sugar substitutes. Common stevia “blends” combine stevia glucosides and dextrose (below).
Agave nectar. A syrup extracted from the agave cactus, this sweetener is proving to be more harmful than not. Derived of almost entirely pure fructose, this sweetener’s effects on your body aren’t far from the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. Not to mention the agave catci population is rapidly dwindling, meaning if we keep consuming this stuff THERE WILL BE NO MORE TEQUILA, PEOPLE!!!!
Honey. Another high-fructose sugar subtitute, honey is truly the most natural of all sugars. Scraped from the insides of huge commercial bee hives, honey is literally sweet, delicious bee nectar, and nothing more. Unfortunately, unnecessary pasteurization destroys any active enzymes or health benefits of the honey, but consumed in small amounts, is still one of your better sugar alternatives.
Dextrose. Made, in general, from GMO wheat and corn, dextrose is a highly processed product that is commonly found in potato chips, candy, and snack foods. Glucose solids from wheat and corn are extracted and processed to oblivion, resulting in a white granular powder similar to sugar. The heavy processing removes any remnants of gluten, rendering this product at least gluten-friendly.
Ethyritol. My preferred sugar alternative, ethyritol belongs to the alcohol sugar family (which also includes maltose and xylitol). Used cup-for-cup to replace sugar, these tiny white granules look and taste just like table sugar. Alcohol sugars are generally pretty easy on the glycemic index chart, not elevating blood levels excessively as they’re considered calorie free. The long-term effects of consuming these are lacking due to lack of studies, but for now, in moderation, seem to be an acceptable substitute for individuals who can’t or don’t want to tolerate sugar. I prefer ethyritol over xylitol as it’s pet-friendly, whereas xylitol is quite toxic to our furry friends.
Aspartame/Acesulfame-Potassium/Splenda/Sucrose. Though these are all chemically different sweeteners, I am lumping them into the same category here because they’re so similar. They reached their popularity in the 1980s, most notably in diet sodas. Soon moms were buying boxes of the snow-like Splenda to take home and sprinkle all over their family’s food, believing they were doing good. Now, fast-forwarded to the 21st century, we see countless studies defaming these substitutes and blaming them for many cancers and modern ailments, yet somehow they are still approved by the FDA! If you can get past the taste, which is an almost minty chemical aftertaste, are you able to swallow, being aware of all the detrimental evidence to our health? Avoid these sweeteners at all costs.