sweet it is

After a Thanksgiving weekend filled with eating I am feeling the effects of all the sugar I consumed, which got me thinking about sweeteners. My go to sweetener is honey except when baking, where I tend to use maple syrup. So here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of commonly used sweeteners. 

my top 4 sweeteners:

my favorite sweetener! Is easily utilized and absorbed by the body and it also contains minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium), vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C and folate), proteins, fatty acids, glucose and fructose. Honey also has an antibacterial agent so it can also be used for burns, dandruff, ulcers and other wounds. 
However do not use honey if there is a known pollen or bee-related allergy.

there are different types of honey made from different flowers or from honeydew but your best choice is a 100% pure, raw, unpasteurized honey.

unpasteurized honey should never be given to infants under 1 year of age as honey contaminated with Clostridium botulinum may cause botulism poisoning. However, this is not a danger for older children or adults.

stevia (Reb-A)
this sweetener also comes from a plant, Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, and is 250 times as sweet as sucrose. Stevia is calorie free! But it has a distinct taste that some may not be too fond of. Stevia has also shown benefit for lowering blood pressure and decreasing glucose levels. Overall, it is a well-tolerated sweetener. 

another natural and “good-for-you” sweetener is blackstrap molasses as it contains calcium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6. When buying blackstrap molasses look for un-sulphurated, as it does not contain any chemicals. 

maple syrup
my second favorite sweetener! Maple syrup has fewer calories than honey and contains manganese and zinc. Manganese and zinc offer many benefits including: decreasing progression of atherosclerosis, increasing immune responses and decreasing inflammation. Once again, when looking for the perfect maple syrup always buy pure maple syrup.

nutritionally inferior sweeteners:

agave comes from the plant family Agavaceae and is composed mostly of fructose. There are no known standardizations for agave, meaning the preparations of agave can vary and the clinical effects of different brands may not be comparable. However, there is no sufficient scientific evidence proving the benefits of agave. Nonetheless, it has a low glycemic index and is a lot sweeter than sugar so much less needs to be used to obtain the same sweetness. Agave is easily substituted in most recipes.

sugar alcohols
other popular sweeteners found in packaged foods are sugar alcohols liks sorbitol, xylitol and malitol. One easy way to determine if a sugar substitute is a sugar alcohol is to remember that basically anything ending with “-ol” is a sugar alcohol. These are better for you than sucralose and aspartame as sugar alcohols contain dietary fiber and increase satiety (feeling full). Sugar alcohols are not a whole-food and they provide no nutritional benefit so I tend to avoid these as well.

sucralose and aspartame 
there has been a lot of controversy surrounding sucralose (eg. Splenda) and aspartame (eg. NutraSweet) as they were previously believed to be carcinogenic (cancer causing). In 2007, the FDA reported that aspartame and sucralose are safe as sweeteners in food. So if you enjoy these artificial sweeteners there is supposedly no harm associated with their use but I believe in eating a whole-food diet and anything artificial does not make the cut for me!

when in doubt try to choose sweeteners that come from a whole food source and are not chemically produced in a lab. It is important to choose foods that have nutritional value to keep your body and mind healthy and happy. This definitely applies to the sweeteners you choose to include in your diet.

remember to always consult a healthcare practitioner before introducing or removing sweeteners from your diet as some can elicit certain side effects.  

best in health, 

kate kokoski 


(2011). Natural Standard. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 


KF said...

this is great :) And I am also feeling the effect of thanksgiving dinner lol.... I do have a question based on sugar... today I was at starbucks ordering a tea, however I need sugar in it to sweeten it up.. and there I was torn between the white sugar and brown sugar. So my question is is brown sugar really better for you then say stevia? what are your comments. And thanks again for the posts :)

Kate Kokoski said...

Thank you for your comment and what a great question!
Starbucks and other coffee/tea stores offer honey as a sweetener so I would recommend using it instead of white or brown sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar and now that you are aware of all the great nutrients in honey you may as well try to make the switch! If I had to choose between stevia and brown sugar I would go with stevia as it elicits positive effects on your glucose levels; stevia lowers blood glucose whereas brown sugar increases blood glucose. However, if there is only white and brown sugar to choose from and you need your tea to be sweetened then choose brown sugar as it is flavored with molasses so it will contain small amounts of the nutrients found in molasses.

Here is a quick breakdown of the calorie content in common sweeteners:
Honey contains 21 calories per teaspoon.
White sugar contains 16 calories per teaspoon.
Brown sugar contains 16 calories per teaspoon.

Hope this helps!

KF said...

Thanks Kate,
this really helps because this whole time i was believing the whole brown sugar craze. Thanks for the reply and I will definitely try to make the switch to honey :)

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