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Sweetener vs sugar: Which ones you should avoid

VANCOUVER – The only common thing about sugar substitutes and sweeteners is that they taste sweet.

But everything else is different.

Dietitian Melodie Yong says our bodies handle these substitutes differently and the chemical structure of each are different again.

“You can break them down into three sorts of categories,” says Yong.

  1. The artificial sweeteners
  2. The natural sweeteners
  3. Sugar alcohols or polyols

Artificial Sweeteners:

“These definitely have gotten a bad rap and I think there’s a good reason for it,” says Yong.

Sweet’n Low – The sweetener in Sweet’n Low is called cyclamate. It’s been banned in the U.S. but is available in Canada. “It has been linked to animal cancers and reproductive issues in men,” says Yong. “If something is causing cancer in something, it’s not a good thing.” She recommends not using Sweet’n Low.

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Aspartame (Nutrasweet or Equal) – “Anything with aspartame, I would say stay away from,” says Yong.

Splenda – Use with caution. It has been linked to interfering with good bacteria.

Natural Sweeteners:

Stevia – One of the better sweeteners as it is derived from the plant.

Sugar Alcohol or Polyols:

It’s not sugar and alcohol, but has a chemical structure similar to sugar and alcohol. It does have calories, but is absorbed differently in the body.

Xylitol – A popular option, with the sweetness being the same as sugar.

Erythritol – Often combined with stevia to mask the aftertaste.

Yong says these are actually better sweeteners to use.

She recommends sticking to stevia, erythritol or xylitol.

“You can actually train your tastebuds to get used to less sweet, bottom line, stick to food,” says Yong.

What about Yacon syrup? Yong says it is very low on the glycemic index so it does have some calories, but it does not cause your blood sugar to spike and can be a good alternative if you can find it.

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Follow Melodie Yong at Twitter at @MYonebite

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