I was given a suggestion from reader Lucy Myderwyk in a comment in my last blog. She asked “I’m a new subscriber and not sure if you wrote about the subject of sugar substitutes. I’ve been using Splenda and/or several other brands for as long as I can remember. Good or bad? I would value your opinion.”
First of all thank you Lucy. I appreciate the kind words. Sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners is a big and often controversial topic, but I will give you my opinion and experience. As I have mentioned before, I am not a doctor, dietitian or health professional. What I share here is my opinion and what has worked for me.
There are a lot of sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners out there, and they are not the same thing. Just some of the names for artificial sweeteners are aspartame, sucrose, sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet and Low) and sugar alcohols. One often seen in diabetic candies and chocolate is something called Malitol. There are other “ols” like Manitol, Sorbitol, Xylitols.
Then you have sugar substitutes like honey, Stevia, Agave Nectar, and one of the most controversial High Fructose Corn Syrup. You also have the choices of raw sugar or brown sugar as a replacement for refined white sugar as well.
I have not experienced all of these but I have experienced some. First the good ones. I use Honey as a sweetener in herbal teas especially when I am using them medicinally. As I have mentioned, I am an entertainer and I earn my living with my voice. Sometimes when I get a sore throat, I use various mint teas to help that, and I put a little honey in too as that helps the throat. Honey has all kinds of good properties in it, and if you can get it at a farmers market directly from a bee keeper it is usually even better.
I have friends who swear by Agave Syrup, but I have not had a chance to try it yet. Another sweetener made from plants is Stevia. Nothing against Stevia as a sweetener, and I know a lot of people use it but I just found (for me) it had a weird after taste I didn’t care for.
One of the best things I ever did for my weight loss was stop putting sugar of any kind in my tea. I am a big tea drinker. I can’t drink coffee because I am actually allergic to coffee. I work from home when not performing and in my office I was drink 5 or 6 cups of tea a day. Well if I put 2 or even 1 teaspoon of sugar in each cup you can see how much that would be in a year. It only took a couple of days and I didn’t even miss it.
I have used raw sugar in the past as a substitute for refined sugar, and it was ok too. Any time our food is less “refined” the better.
Now for the bad. First of all one of the most controversial right now is High Fructose Corn Syrup. One of the main reasons is that it is in EVERYTHING. It is one of the biggest sweeteners used in packaged foods. At Princeton University rats were fed HFCS gained fat 300% faster than those fed a fruit derived sweetener. There is a lot I could say on this but there are tons of articles out there outlining the dangers. I started to Google “Dangers of…” and High Fructose Corn Syrup was one of the first suggestions, which means a lot of people are researching it. Remember HFCS is hidden in places you wouldn’t think to look as well. I found this at http://www.dailyhealthpost.com
The next most controversial is Aspartame. I was a big diet cola drinker and people were always telling me I was going to die, or have my liver shut down or have my hair fall out..oh wait, too late. That wasn’t what finally put me off aspartame. I had finally heard it put in a way that made sense. Now I realize what Dr.Oz has to say is taken with a large grain of salt, but he put it this way, though I may paraphrase. You take in something with aspartame and your body goes Yay! Something Sweet! but after a while your brain goes “Wait a minute – we didn’t get anything sweet” and it starts craving sugar or carbs and that is why you read article that say diet sodas can cause you to gain weight. Do I still drink diet cola? Occasionally I will admit, but no where near like I used to drink.
Then as a diabetic I discovered what are called sugar alcohols. That is all those things that end in “Ol” like Soribitol etc. They are okay in VERY limited amounts. I found out something the hard way. After I was diagnosed as a diabetic in 2005, I though I could never have candy or chocolate again. Then I got a bag of diabetic candies sweetened with Sorbitol. Any of these sugar alcohols taken in a large quantity can cause severe diarrhea as I unfortunately found out the hard way.
I don’t want to say “You should use whatever” because that is not my place, but as it relates to weight loss, be careful how much of any sweetener you take in, and again, read labels. You will be amazed once you learn all the names for sweeteners, artificial or natural, you see them hidden in all kinds of foods. The little graphic I found on the internet shows American consumption but Canada is right behind!
Sugar is also good at playing hide and seek. It is in all kinds of foods that you wouldn’t expect, just the HFCS. You expect it in sugary treat and pastries but we forget it is in things like bread, jams and jellies that we put on our bread, and in things like ketchup and other packaged foods.
They all add up to some scary amounts and can really hinder your weight loss efforts. You think you are doing well avoiding sweets in obvious places, but those hidden sugars and artificial sweeteners are out there!
In my last post I announced that I am having my first contest. I have been given some tickets to the Wellness Fair happening at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre February 13-15.
I would like to share them with a couple of my readers. I have 2 pairs to give away. I have my first winner but I still have 1 pair left. Congrats to Lucy Myderwyk. Lucy – send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward to the person who will tell you how to pick up your tickets.
In the comments below, I would like you to give some ideas on what you would like me to write about. Do you have any questions about my journey or even your own? Just jot them down and I will select 2 winners who will each receive a pair of tickets .
You will help me with my blog, and you will get to see great lectures, demonstration and be able to browse all kinds of booths with products connected to healthy eating and healthy living! If you need more information about the show go tohttp://www.thewellnessshow.com
Until next time, have a healthy and happy day!