By Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP
Certified Nutrition and Wellness Coach
What About Natural Sweeteners?
There are many natural sweeteners that will calm your sweet tooth, but are gentler on the system so they won’t cause those drastic fluctuations in blood sugar.
In fact, Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, once shared this story with his students: Rosenthal once had a client, a dentist, who had an uncontrollable sweet tooth. She’d eat several candy bars a day and confided that she felt like a fraud, since she constantly lectured to her patients on the evils of sugar. Rosenthal suggested she try some plain rice cakes with brown rice syrup poured over them. It quickly became a favorite!
Once I was conducting a “sugar blues” workshop and I like to bring “props” with me; in this case, some sweet, natural snacks. The store (Westerly, in NYC) was out of brown rice syrup, so I substituted Grade B Maple Syrup to pour over the rice cake. They were quickly gobbled up, and one of the participants took the last remaining few home to give to her friends.
Besides brown rice and maple syrups, you can also experiment with:
- Agave, made from the agave cactus that makes tequila (don’t worry, no alcohol!)
- Date Sugar
- Stevia-Brazilian herb
- Sucanet—Short for “sugar cane natural”; evaporated organic cane juice made through a mechanical process
- Maple Sugar
- Birch Sugar
- Barley Malt
A Word About Maple Syrup: Maple Syrup falls into two grades: A and B. Grade A Maple Syrup is the light, amber colored one we all know and it’s milder in taste. Grade B, which is produced later in the season, has a dark color and is somewhat thicker, with a strong, almost gritty taste. Grade B has a higher nutrient content as well.
While both Grade A and Grade B arefine, many now tend to prefer the Grade B and it is most-often used by chefs.
What About Artificial Sweeteners?
I recently overheard someone muttering that she was feeling tired and “needed to eat sugar” for a pick-me-up. So naturally, I had to chip in my two cents (unwanted, I’m sure, but that didn’t stop me). I explained to her that if she was feeling tired, she’d be much better off with a protein rich snack, like a turkey wrap, some “trail mix” of fruit and nuts or, if she wasn’t allergic to soy, maybe even a handful of edamame.
Then I said—and this is where the discussion on artificial sweeteners comes in—that the supermarket next to her had some all-natural, vegan treats and, in a pinch, she’d be better off having one of those.
“But I can’t eat artificial sweeteners,” she said.
I assured her that the vegan treats contained only natural, gentle sweeteners and then I explained the difference between those and the artificial ones—the natural sweeteners wouldn’t cause the violent fluctuations in blood sugar.
Artificial sweeteners are usually so loaded with chemicals that I often say, “Why don’t you just throw a little bottle of poison down your throat?” In addition, an artificial sweetener will cause the same fluctuations in blood sugar that sugar does.
How? Well, remember how I explained that the body is remarkably smart? As soon as you swallow the artificial sweetener, the body thinks sugar is on the way—so it prepares and sends in the insulin. But there’s no sugar, alas, so the insulin is getting rid of something that doesn’t really exist and, before you know it, you’re getting the signal to eat…sugar.
Here’s a rundown on the most commonly-seen artificial sweeteners:
- Aspartame: we see it under the names NutraSweet and Equal
- Saccharine: we see it under the name Sweet ‘n Low
- Sucralose: we see it as Splenda
- Acesulfame K: produced by a German chemical company, widely used in beverages and pharmaceuticals around the world
- Neotame: produced by the NutraSweet Company, widely used in many diet soft drinks and low-calorie foods.
We hope you enjoyed this article! This is the third part of a 3-part article by Irene Ross. Be sure to check out the first two parts of Sugar’s Sour Story if you haven’t already!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Irene Ross is a NYC-based certified nutrition and wellness coach. She works with people to help them instantly increase their energy so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their life.
She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is now considered to be the largest nutrition school in the world. While there, she studied over 100 dietary theories, lifestyle management techniques and cutting-edge coaching methods, with instructors including Dr. David Katz; Dr. Bernie Siegel; Dr. Mark Hyman; Deepak Chopra, MD; Dr. Andrew Weil and many others.She also received a BA from Marist College and attended New York University.