Are Natural Sweeteners Actually Healthy?
As more and more people have become concerned with both the amount of sugar they are consuming, and the large number of artificial sweeteners that are being put into the food chain, attention has turned to trying to find the ‘holy grail’ of sweeteners, one that is both healthy and natural.
The trouble is that what sounds healthy might not be at all, and what has gotten a bad rap might actually be good for you.
Honey is naturally sweet and derived from the hives of bees, making it all natural. While it does have a lower glycemic index (GI) than table sugar (55 versus 70), it does have a significant impact on your blood sugar when you eat it, leaving you potentially more prone to craving sweet treats. Therefore, use in moderation.
Agave tastes similar to honey, but has a GI of only 15. It is derived from the cactus plant and can be used in the same way as honey, though it is important to note that it is higher in calories (310 vs. 250) per 100 g.
Corn has gotten a bad name due to high fructose corn syrup, that is, a natural sweetener which has become so much a part of the food industry it is being blamed as the most likely cause of the US obesity epidemic.
Corn can actually be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation. It is great eaten fresh from the cob with a pat of butter. It is excellent when air-popped and served with a sprinkle of cheese, or chocolate chips for a sweet treat. Studies have shown that popped corn has one of the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants of any food. In fact, it is said to have twice the level of blueberries.
Corn cobs are used to make the natural sugar substitute xylitol, which you’ve probably seen in sugar free gum. Corn starch is also often used as a thickener and can add some sweetness to recipes.
Corn meal, as in ground corn, is the basis for delicious corn bread or corn pudding. Provided it is not smothered with sugar, salt and gravy, homemade cornbread can be a healthy sweet or savory treat.
Corn is a naturally sweet food, but as with all things, use it in moderation.
No matter which you choose, remember the goal is always to burn more calories than you consume. Aim for a healthy diet and exercise, and sweets in moderation. Then see what a difference it can make to your health.