Make Life Sweeter by Dr. Janna House

Make Life Sweeter by Dr. Janna House

Chiropractic London ON Make Life Sweeter

The Way I See It…

So what’s the big deal about sugar? Well, whether you are overweight or not, it is very important to maintain even blood sugar levels in London. This is will reduce inflammation in your body which is a contributing factor to many diseases. Eating too much sugar can bring about imbalances that lead to serious health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease[1], liver disease, osteoporosis, cancer[2], dental cavities, inflammatory diseases, and brain dysfunction [3].

This increased awareness about the dangers of sugar consumption has brought about the introduction of sugar substitutes. Some of these substitutes are harmful to our health and can have adverse side effects, while some are beneficial. Some natural sweeteners are still high in naturally occurring sugars that can raise your blood sugar levels.

Healthy living doesn’t mean you have to give up sweets entirely. It just means you have to find healthy replacements for refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Figuring out which sweeteners are good is confusing. Here is a list of the most commonly available sweeteners, what they are and my recommendations about using them.

The Science Behind It and What It Means to You…

Artificial Sweeteners:

Aspartame, also sold as, Nutrasweet and Equal, is used a sweetener in sodas, cookies, chewing gum and just about any diet product. It has provoked considerable controversy, with many people complaining about side effects, including dizziness, blurred vision and headaches. Long term effects are more concerning, as it has a negative effect on the nervous system and brain. If you think it’s a good choice when you are trying to lose weight, think again, it upsets the bacteria in the gut and impairs glucose metabolism. The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is to avoid this product. I would avoid this product, too.

Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is a modification of the sugar molecule that contains zero calories. Beyond the fact that it is artificial, and therefore our bodies do not naturally “know” how to use it, it can bring on negative gastro intestinal problems short term – bloating, gas, cramping, and long term – upsetting the healthy flora/bacteria in the gut. It is the number one artificial sweetener in the US, yet the recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is to avoid it. I would avoid this product, too.

While I truly believe that everyone should avoid artificial sweeteners, it’s particularly important for children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to refrain from these sweeteners. The risk is simply too great.

Natural Sweeteners:

Chiropractic London ON Sweeteners

Agave syrup is produced from the sap of the agave cactus, then enzymes are added, and it is heated to produce a palatable product. It is higher in fructose than any other sweetener, sometimes even higher than High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). I would avoid it.

Barley malt syrup is made by roasting sprouted barley and cooking it down to a syrup. Be careful because some brands may contain corn syrup or refined sugar. If it’s pure, then it could be a good sweetener alternative as it is a reasonably good source of minerals and vitamins, but has almost no sucrose or fructose. Although I have never used it in my baking, it sounds like a good natural sweetener.

Brown rice syrup is made with brown rice and a culture that’s cooked to a syrup. There seems to be contradictory information on this syrup out there about its effect on blood sugar, as well, there is some concern that it contains trace amounts of arsenic. I would avoid it.

Sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets that is crushed to extract its juice. The juice is then evaporated until sugar crystals remain. No matter the form, it’s going to raise your blood sugar levels, so I would avoid it.


Chicory Root is naturally derived from the root of a perennial plant. It has an impressive dose of vitamins and minerals. It’s extremely high in soluble fibre. Studies show that it may prevent constipation, maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon, and lower blood cholesterol levels. It has a sweet taste, yet has a very low glycemic index. I would try this.

Coconut Sugar has a low glycemic load and is rich in minerals. Sap is extracted from the blooms of the coconut palm. It is then evaporated to produce sugar. Use it in your favourite recipes just like sugar, but, use it sparingly!

Dates are another plant-based all natural sweetener packed with minerals and vitamins. They help metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Evidence shows that dates may help reduce LDL cholesterol and may reduce the risk of stroke. [5] Dates can be pulverized into date sugar or made into a paste. I think dates are a great sweetener.

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. (Note: Sugar alcohols got their name because their biochemical structure resembles a hybrid of a sugar and an alcohol.) Erythritol has 95 percent less calories than sugar. Erythritol makes an ideal sweetener for people with diabetes because it has no adverse effects on blood glucose levels. Erythritol may not spike blood sugar and insulin levels because it is not digested easily. However, this also leads to potential side effects such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. I recommend that you look for 100 percent erythritol or a erythritol/stevia blend, or a erythritol/monkfruit blend. Just be careful, not recommended for nursing or pregnant moms, and can be toxic to dogs. It appears to be a highly processed product, so although some healthy gurus validate it as safe, I would use it cautiously.

Fruit juice concentrates are fruit juices cooked down and sold as either a syrup or frozen juice concentrate. Although juice concentrates come from fruit, they still are a sugar and can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels. Use sparingly.

Raw Honey oozes with enzymes, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. As well, promotes growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. One tablespoon of honey has 64 calories and has less impact on the glycemic load than a banana, but because it contains fructose, it has a negative effect on the liver when overused. I would use honey in moderation.

Maple Syrup, a Canadian favourite, is made by evaporating the sap of maple trees. It is heat stable and can be used just like sugar. It makes things a little more moist, but you can adjust the dry ingredients accordingly. Presently, this is my go to sweetener when I am baking, but it needs to be used in moderation.

Blackstrap Molasses is a highly nutritious natural sweetener. It is obtained from raw cane sugar, and is boiled intensely, which concentrate its nutrients and deepens its rich flavour and colour. I would use molasses in some baking.

Monk fruit extract (lo han guo) is from an Asian fruit used in China for food and medicine. This zero-calorie sweetener contains compounds from the fruit that produce a sweet taste but no calories. Look for pure monk fruit sweetener that has the least amount of processing with no added ingredients. It can be expensive, but I consider this to be a good sweetener, I would use it.

Muscovado, Sucant, Turbinado and Demerara sugars are unrefined cane sugars. They are similar in many ways. Although some good is retained (minerals), they will all increase blood sugar levels. They differ slightly due to how they are manufactured, which affects their taste and texture. I would avoid or use with extreme moderation.

Palm Sugar is made from the sap collected from the palm tree when it is tapped. It’s the tropical version of maple sugar. I would use sparingly.

Stevia is a plant based sweetener that has been used for hundreds of years in South America. It supports healthy blood sugar levels. It comes in a variety of forms from liquid drops to granules and powders. While the stevia leaf (fresh or dried) is all natural and has health benefits. Unfortunately, many forms of stevia readily available in our grocery stores are highly processed into powders that have been bleached and chemically altered. I would suggest using pure stevia extract drops, organic and minimally processed. Can be used for baking. Follow package directions carefully to know how to use or substitute stevia for sugar in your favourite recipes.

Swerve is a combination of erythritol and oligosaccharides, which the company says are “non-digestible carbohydrates extracted from fruit and vegetable sources” that have been researched to prevent formation of chronic illness. Swerve is made from completely non-GMO ingredients, and appears to be made from the most natural forms of each ingredient it contains. And with this in mind, Swerve may serve as a safe and useful sugar replacement, as long as it is used moderately.

Xylitol, another sugar alcohol comes from corncobs or hardwood. When buying Xylitol, look for hardwood derived, if possible, or organic from corn, otherwise, it may be genetically modified. It tastes similar to cane sugar, has the same “mouth feel” as sugar, is low in calories, and reportedly does not cause cavities. *XYLITOL IS EXTREMELY TOXIC TO DOGS. Xylitol is highly processed, so I would only use it with caution.

Yacon syrup comes from a South American tuber that looks like potato, but has a sweet taste. Yacon syrup is fresh-pressed from the yacon root, a distant relative of the sunflower. Its nonglycemic, natural, high in antioxidants and yacon is known to be a prebiotic, making it good for digestion. It is expensive, but since eating sweets, even relatively healthy ones, should be limited, it is a sweetener that I would use.

In Summary…

Ultimately, when it comes to sweeteners, your goal should be to eat as little as possible—or none at all. When you sweeten food, even with some of these more natural options, your body will continue to crave sweets and you just may eat more later in the day.

But I struggle with going without sweets, so if you need to sweeten up your food from time to time, aim for a natural option, rather than an artificial sweetener. And remember to use the smallest amount possible.

Avoid artificial sweeteners.

Stay away from white sugar.

A lower glycemic index coupled with slightly lower amounts of fructose makes coconut sugar, palm sugar, molasses, honey, and maple syrup, a slightly better alternative to table sugar and an acceptable occasional “proceed with caution” sweetener. Nutrients aside, it’s still mostly sugar and can create similar problems with your liver and blood sugar.

If you need a healthy sweetener for your coffee, homemade salad dressing, or occasional sweet treat, opt for natural alternatives like stevia extract, monk fruit, dates/date sugar, chicory root, and yacon syrup which don’t raise your blood sugar, don’t stress out your liver, and even provide some health benefits. Usually a combination of these provides the best taste.

Sugar alcohols, like erythritol (Swerve) and xylitol can be used if you are looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Remember to look for those that are organic, non-gmo and have been minimally processed.






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