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Pass the Natural Sweetener, Please

By Rebecca Price

Hi, my name is Rebecca, and I’ve been a sweet tooth for 20 years, now. But I think that, sometimes, we are (myself included) unaware of just how awful sugary drinks and foods are for us. For instance: high fructose corn syrup. Ever heard of it? It is absolutely awful for you. And it is in everythingfrom soda and ketchup to even V8 Splash and some yogurts.

According to a study conducted by Princeton, “Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.” The article on princeton.edu also explained that high fructose corn syrup can contribute to health risks such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer, and diabetes. No wonder we are always told to stay away from soda!

Refined table sugar can also be a no-no because of its complete lack of nutrients and minerals. But how can we avoid such prevalent products? Many women have turned to sweeteners like Sweet ‘N Low, Splenda, and Equal, but all of these products contain excessive chemicals. An alternative to these potent sweeteners is to switch to natural sweeteners and sugars, such as the ones listed below:

Agave Syrup: According to an article on oprah.com entitled, “Naturally Sweet: 4 Chemical-Free Sugar Substitutes,” agave syrup is made from the agave plant, which is where tequila comes from, too.  “This syrup with notes of caramel has slightly more calories than table sugar but is about 25 percent sweeter, so you can get away with less of it,” the article says. It goes on to say that agave syrup is good for your intestines, as it has a dietary fiber called prebiotic.

However, according to wellandgoodnyc.com, agave “is primarily fructose (90 percent). While fructose breaks down more rapidly than glucose in the liver (that’s good for blood sugar), an excess can lead to a greater production of fat and bad cholesterol.” It is also 10 calories more per tablespoon than sugar; however, since it’s sweeter than sugar, you don’t have to include as much of the sweetener into recipes.

Raw Honey: I am kind of obsessed with honey. When I was five, I poured a bunch of it into a bowl and ate the whole thing with a spoon–I mentioned that I was a sweet tooth, right? I told my mom about it later, and she was horrified. What kind of glutton was she raising? But if you don’t indulge as much as my five-year-old self, raw honey is a great alternative to refined, white sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

There are different kinds of honey, apparently, with crazy flavors like blueberry, clover, wildflower, chestnut, and orange blossom. Oprah.com detailed that honey helped individuals who incorporated honey into their diet either maintain or lose weight while also lowering cholesterol. Honey also has antioxidants, which are great for warding off disease.

Stevia: Stevia is not my favorite natural sweetener because of its aftertaste. But, according to oprah.com, “while it’s 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, stevia doesn’t cause a spike in blood glucose levels—sparing you the crash that follows a spoonful of the white stuff.” I prefer honey over Stevia for sweetening my tea, but it’s a great option for baking with, and you don’t have to use as much as sugar, because it’s much sweeter.

Whey Low: Their official website says that Whey Low is 100 percent natural, tastes exactly like sugar, has 75 percent fewer calories than sugar, 70-80 percent lower glycemic index than sugar and is safe for individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Southern Living named it the best sweetener in 2010 as did the Washington Post in 2008. Whey Low is, however, quite expensive.

Maple Syrup: As long as you make sure that you are buying a natural product with no high fructose corn syrup included, maple syrup is a tasty sugar alternative. Americandiabetes.com reported, however, that maple syrup has “a fairly high glycemic index, which can cause blood glucose to spike, so diabetics should be aware of this and consume in moderation.”

Molasses: Oprah.com detailed that molasses has 15 percent of the daily iron requirement for premenopausal women. Molasses also has vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, and more antioxidants than any other natural sweetener.

Unrefined Brown Sugar: I am a bit addicted to unrefined sugar. I grew up in Papua New Guinea, which produces a lot of sugar cane. So I grew up on soda with real sugar, unrefined cane sugar, and being able to eat sugar cane raw–in case you were wondering, it is delicious. Because unrefined sugar has not had its natural minerals and vitamins stripped, it is a more nutritious sugar option.

Brown Rice Syrup: According to botanicalcuisine.com, “brown rice syrup is produced by fermenting the cooked brown rice or brown rice flour by adding sprouted barley to it that has active enzymes, which helps to break down the complex carbohydrates to soluble carbohydrates, maltose and some glucose.” It also has a good source of manganese, potassium, B-group vitamins, and magnesium.

Although there are several sweetener options, everyone is going to have their personal preferences. You may have to find your preferred product by trial and error, but once you find one you like, you will be the happier–and the healthier–for it.


Image Source: Surat Lozowick


Rebecca Price–Autoimmune Ally

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About Author

Born a North Carolinian, Rebecca Price moved to Papua New Guinea when she was 3 and lived on a Wycliffe Bible Translators center there until she graduated high school in 2010. Now a rising senior at Asbury University, Rebecca is a double major in creative writing and journalism with a minor in Spanish. Rebecca is the Executive Editor of her student newspaper, the Asbury Collegian, and a writing tutor at the Center for Academic Excellence. She has had some wonderful experiences during her time at Asbury, including reporting at the London 2012 Olympics through the NBC-affiliate LEX-18. She enjoys bunnies, coffee and AP Style.

View all Rebecca Price posts.

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