I have had many questions about the sweeteners I use and those I refuse to use so I have FINALLY (sorry its taken so long!) written a post for all those who have been patiently waiting to hear my thoughts on all the health "stuff" out there.
Hope you can glean something from the choices I have made in my life to benefit your own!
For those of us who have struggled with our weight on and off for most of our lives we know all to well that losing weight is never easy and always requires work. Choosing the right program that you know will help you stick with it in the long haul can be a confusing one to say the least. One thing I've learned along the way is that fad diets never work and never, ever help in keeping the weight off for good. In my own personal battles with losing weight, I used many different programs along the way. But honestly in my own humble opinion, all programs can and do work, it just depends on if you are ready and willing to do what it takes or not.
The basic theme is always the same no matter what program you choose. In order to lose weight you must eat less and expend more calories than you are currently taking in or you would have already lost the weight you wanted to lose by now.
We can choose on a daily basis certain types of foods and ingredients that either help promote our overall goals or detract from them. My experience has shown me eating foods with refined sugar and flours, as well as artificial sweeteners, have greatly contributed to binges, overeating, acne, PMS and other menstrual issues, ravenous hunger and cravings, sluggishness, and sleep problems.
I share my top 3 best sweeteners with you so that you can make informed decisions about what products you decide will either help or hinder your weight loss efforts. Some that are fairly new on the market I prefer to use the" wait and see" approach with. I am currently avoiding coconut palm sugar as I haven't read enough articles to support it as a healthy alternative personally for myself. Here's one article if you are interested in reading more about it. Is Coconut Palm Sugar A Healthy Sugar Substitute?
There's quite a bit of controversy over using agave and whether or not it is a healthy refined sugar free substitute. I've read enough articles at this point to decide that it isn't any better than using white table sugar because it is highly processed. If you are interested in reading more about it, check out, "Agave: A Triumph Over Marketing Truth" , "Is Agave Nectar A healthy Sweetener?" and "Shocking! This 'Tequila' Sweetener is Far Worse than High Fructose Corn Syrup".
This is what I have found through researching agave:
- Sap is removed from the plant itself and chemically processed at high temperatures to produce the syrup.
- Depending on how much heat is used, the syrup may be made up of 55-90% fructose. What's fructose? Essentially high fructose corn syrup! That's what anyone who is trying to lose weight should avoid at all costs!
- The higher the percentage of fructose the higher your blood sugar will spike just as it would consuming white table sugar.
- The FDA has stopped shipments of agave due to excessive pesticide residue.
Some of you have asked about brown sugar and why I don't use it as well. It is completely refined white table sugar crystals that have been added with molasses to produce the brown color. So to me it is not any better for you than white sugar.
If you are interested in why Splenda and other artificial sweeteners are not listed, you can read about it in my post, " 3 Splenda Myths Busted" to learn more.
This list is my choice of sweeteners that works for myself and my family. I am able to cook, bake and enjoy foods made with any of these sweeteners without problems. No longer having issues with cravings, ravenous hunger and other symptoms I felt were directly related to using white table sugar and flour. Except for the first sweetener listed, the other refined sugar-free sweeteners are still a form of sugar and I choose to eat foods with these ingredients in moderation. But the one exception to everything in moderation is consuming refined sugar and flour products. They just don't offer me anything positive in return so I choose to abstain and my life is better for it.
- Completely sugar-free plant based sweetener
- Calorie Free so it doesn't raise blood sugar
- Up to 300x sweeter than sugar so you can use much less
- 2 drops of liquid stevia = 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 tbsp. of liquid stevia = 1 cup of sugar
2. Raw, unfiltered honey
- natural and pure
- minimally processed and retains nutrients
- sometimes called evaporated cane juice
- contains less sucrose than white table sugar
- not commercially processed, hand-paddled to dry it
- minimally processed so less likely to spike blood sugar
- ranks as one of the highest in nutritional value because it retains vitamins and minerals found in the sugar cane plant
- 1 tsp contains 15 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 sodium, 10mg potassium, 6mg calcium, 4 g complex carbohydrates
I choose to cook and bake with these top 3 sweeteners above.
The following sweeteners are ones I would ingest if found within processed and packaged foods but I do so very rarely. I have not cooked or baked with these sweeteners below although I am not opposed to doing so. I just really love using the top 3 I have already shared.
- date sugar, brown rice syrup, black strap molasses, barley malt and fruitsource- a natural sweetener made from kiwi fruit.
Hopefully this post will encourage you to try the sugar-free lifestyle gradually eliminating refined sugar from your life. Everyone is different and some products will not effect you as they do other people. Choosing to abstain from certain sugars has greatly helped me achieve a freedom in my life I never thought was possible before. No foods or sugars and products will ever hold me captive without the ability to say NO to them and YOU can do it too!
Have you tried to become sugar-free? Are you unable to say no to refined sugar products?
What products and ingredients effect you negatively? Are you successfully leading a sugar-free lifestyle? Please share your thoughts and comments!
PLEASE NOTE DISCLAIMER:
Brenda Bennett is not a medical professional or nutritionist. She does not have formal weight loss training. This blog is her own experience as examples and guidelines for healthy eating, exercise and weight loss strategies. Consult a medical professional before making exercise and dietary changes.
Great info and so glad I found your blog via pinterest!
What about evaporated can juice crystals (used in Kashi Berry Crisp Cereal, one of my favorites!)?
I don't use evaporated cane juice. But if you are able to eat one serving of your cereal and not feel cravings from it and wanting more then you can probably handle that type of sugar. I can not.
Where do you buy your raw honey?
I've found mine at my local Whole Foods Market and local farmers market.
Great post. Thanks. I'm wondering why you don't use maple syrup? It's not for everything but sometimes a small amount of maple syrup seems to feel better in my body than honey or sucanat. (Stevia doesn't agree with me. I'm trying to grow it this year to see if homegrown makes a difference.)
I will be sharing specifics tomorrow in a post to explain.
Hello Sugar free mama!
Very interesting article.
But I have a question about the stevia:
Are you sure it does not rise the insulin levels in the body? I am a bit skeptical about it. At the store it looks like a medicine! How it is possible that stevia is good.... or not bad at least.
Stevia is the only thing I use because my husband has diabetes. It does not affect his blood sugar at all. Sweetleaf is the best. I get it at Kroger and Sprouts. At Kroger it is located where the organic items are. Not where regular sugar is located. I tried Splenda since that was on his list to use for diabetes. Splenda gave me headaches and body aches. That was enough proof for me to know it is NOT NATURAL and will not be included in our diet! I quit sugar, and refined foods just over 2 yrs. ago when my husband became diabetic and I have lost 42 lbs. I've never felt better!
Thank you so much Debbie for sharing!
As far as I know from diabetic websites it is approved to use. Stevia in liquid does look like medicine in a bottle but that is because it is a very concentrated liquid and a little goes far. 1 teaspoon of stevia is equal to a cup of sugar! Getting the right brand is the key, some have aftertastes that you may not like. We love it in our house.
I'd rather use less sugar than any artificial or supposedly new "natural" sweetners.
Here's a comment I agree with taken from your livestrong article:
"This article lacks balance and as a result does not provide your readers with the "rest of the story" regarding the safety reviews of stevia. For example, the article fails to mention that The World Health Organization?s Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has conducted a thorough scientific review of the existing scientific data on steviol glycosides and concluded that they are safe for use in food and beverages. Most recently (April 2010), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced that studies showed no risk of toxicity from highly purified stevia sweeteners.
Based on the wealth of published research, independent scientific experts in both the U.S. and globally have concluded that stevia sweeteners are safe for people of all ages and populations."
And taken directly from your other article: "Despite all of the scientific evidence, both positive and negative, no clear agreements have been drawn about the dangers of stevia. Stevia has been in wide use in Japan for the past 30 years, and to date, no evidence of any adverse reactions have surfaced during this time."
And another article: http://www.cookingwithstevia.com/stevia_faq.html
Stevia has been used in Japan since 1970 and there have been no reports of toxicity or other side effects. Stevia has been used around the world with NO reports of stevia overdose or toxicity to humans in the past forty years.
I used stevia back in the 90s could only get it from an herb shop. No problems here. I was glad when it made it into popular marketing.
What are your thoughts on maple syrup? It's cheaper than honey for me. I can get it locally, where it is minimally processed - if at all.
Thanks for your information! It's a huge help to those of us who haven't yet researched everything, yet want to know safe sweeteners to start with!
Just wondering do you drink coffee? How does this taste in it? Also do you have a recommendation for creamer? I would love to change but with two small children and a job where I'm required to work long hours, coffee is my best friend!
ABSOLUtely!! I NEED coffee for sure! I do use the vanilla liquid stevia in my coffee about 5-6 drops is all I need. I will never give up my coffee 🙂
Pam in Siler City, NC
Thanks for all the great info! We use only natural sweeteners and avoid spiking our insulin, hopefully on a daily basis! We have stumbled across a new product (new to us, anyway!) called Weigh-Low. Have you heard of or do you use it? We found it at Whole Foods Market, but it's available at Amazon.com as well. I'd like to hear your opinion/thoughts on this product. Thanks in advance!!
I haven't heard of this product but will investigate it. Thanks!
From what I have read about it, it contains and is produced from fructose. But since it is so very new on the market, it wouldn't be a choice I would be trying any time soon. I like the wait and see approach.
Do you know anything about NuNaturals Stevia? Someone told me that it doesn't have an after taste as well....
Gina C @ At Home with Gina C.
I use NuNaturals powdered stevia and I find it has no aftertaste. I've tried the liquid SweatLeaf stevia and I always find there is an aftertaste! I think that you just have to find what works for you and your palate!
I am so happy that I stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for providing this life changing information. It is staggering how misled we as the general public are about the products that we consume. Quick question. Is Truvia a suitable form of stevia? I ask this as it is more readily available in the stores than Sweetleaf. Thank you again!
Truvia is not my favorite because I think it has quite an aftertaste. There is an additive in the brand truvia called rebiania that is artificial and is probably the cause of the aftertaste. I don't use it. Some readers have said they don't mind the taste of it.
Is this sweetleaf stevia? What should I look for to discern what to look for in a 'stevia product'? Trying to find a New Zealand version.....
Just found your blog and am looking forward to reading lots of your goodies.
Am wondering, if you have tried Whey Low sugar substitutes? Their website is wheylow.com. Some Whole Earths carry their product. I have been using it for about three years. Thank you for any input you may have.
I have not tried it but will look into the website, thanks!
Hello Brenda! Thanks for this article about sweeteners. I would love to switch to non sugar sweeteners and I appreciate this information a lot! One question- Would you please share where you buy your stevia? I would really like to buy a brand with no other ingredients. Thanks!
The brand name I prefer using Sweetleaf Stevia. I like both liquid and packets. I use the packets when needing more than just a teaspoon. You can order through iherb.com and if you use my code YAJ035 you will recieve $5 off your first order.
I'm so glad I found you today! I gave up white sugar and flour on Sept 11th, and lost 18 lbs by Thanksgiving. Then the neighbor Christmas treats started rolling in, I caved and I'm finding myself craving again. Thanks for listing all these sweeteners, there are so many different names it gets confusing. I've used tons of agave, and still lost weight. I'll read those articles about it. I have a question about Stevia, I bought some powdered "Stevia In the Raw" at walmart, the ingredients are Maltodextrin and Stevia. I used it to make muffins and they tasted really off to me. Is the liquid stevia any better? Is there a better powdered? Thankyou!
I don't like to use any brands that include other ingredients like maltodextrin. The liquid form doesn't seem to have any after taste to me and I prefer it. I have also used the brand sweetleaf stevia in packets and also no after taste. Hope that helps!
Thanks for the tips on sweeteners! I have some baby weight to lose, but I've always had a sweet tooth. Hoping this helps. I use organic sugar. I'm wondering if there's a difference between that and the sucanat. Also, how does stevia effect texture? For instance, I love Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Would stevia work as a substitute for sugar? Thanks!
Stevia is my replacement for sugar yes and I don't think it effects texture when baking. I use either liquid or sometimes powdered. I am not sure that organic sugar comes from anything other than white table sugar. Can you check back with me and tell me what the ingredient list says?
Laura @ Gluten Free Pantry
Excellent and informative post! Thanks for providing such great information about sweeteners!
This is exactly where I'm at right now! I know certain things second hand from others but have not done personal research on each of these, except honey. I am curious though on your wording for Sucanut. I am not sure it can be called a "sugar free" sweetener as the name itself is derived from SUgar CAne NATural. I understood that it was sugar cane in its natural form. But, like I said, haven't researched it myself. I do use it though, and like it so far. It is just typically my last resort after the other two. Any details from your reading are helpful! Thank you - so glad to find your blog!
You are exactly correct Mena. Sucanat IS a form of sugar and that is why I use it in moderation and in the paragraph above the picture of stevia I clearly state, "Except for the first sweetener listed, the other REFINED sugar-free sweeteners are still a form of sugar and I choose to eat foods with these ingredients in moderation. "
Sucanat is not a sugar -free sweetener as stevia is, but is IS a REFINED sugar free alternative to white sugar and I use it sparingly.
Musings Of A Minister's Wife
This is exactly what I needed! I have used Splenda for the last two years and I feel that, although it helps me maintain weight loss, that is is partially responsible for sluggishness and possibly some other issues. You can't be really healthy and use chemicals!
And HEALTHY is my goal. Thin is a just an added benefit.
Thanks for this extremely informative article!
I had major issues using Splenda and other artificial sweeteners and I have a post I wrote to tell you more about it, 3 Splenda Myths Busted. Healthy and fit is the goal, thank you for sharing!