Sweeteners come in many forms and types, and many people can no longer see the forest for the trees. Which sweeteners are healthy and which are unhealthy? This question is discussed in this article.
In this article, you can read which sugar substitutes you can use safely, and which ones are harmful to your body and you can therefore leave it better.
At the end of this article, you will find a handy overview of harmful and harmless sweeteners.
Sweeteners are additives that sweeten food. There is a big difference in the strength of each sweetener, so adding some sweeteners provides a lot of calories and others very few. In contrast, ‘fewer calories’ does not always mean that it is healthier.
What sweeteners are there?
There are two types of sweeteners: natural and artificial.
(1) Natural sweeteners are products such as sugar, syrup, and honey. They are extracted from natural foods, such as vegetables, fruit, and starchy products.
(2) Artificial sweeteners are made in a laboratory or factory. They provide fewer calories than regular sugars and are therefore often used in diet and diet products.
Below you can read about the health benefits and drawbacks of natural and artificial sweeteners.
 Natural sweeteners:
Granulated sugar, coconut blossom sugar, apple syrup, rice syrup, and honey – are all-natural sugar substitutes.
You can recognize natural sweeteners by the name: it often contains a hint to the product from which the sugar or syrup is made.
The natural sweeteners differ in their glucose-fructose ratio, nutritional value, and glycemic index, which determines how healthy a natural sweetener is. Because beware: natural does not necessarily mean healthy!
* Glucose vs. fructose
Natural sugars consist of a composition of glucose and fructose.
This composition differs per sugar product. For example, date syrup contains a lot of glucose, and maple syrup consists almost entirely of fructose.
Both substances are not very healthy and each has its own drawbacks.
The disadvantage of glucose is that it makes your blood sugar level rise sharply. This allows you to produce a lot of insulin in a short time so that the sugars can enter your cells. Too much insulin can lead to insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
Fructose, or fruit sugar, hardly increases your blood sugar. Fructose enters your bloodstream in a roundabout way, namely through your liver.
But fructose may be even more harmful than glucose because it stimulates fat production
In addition, too much fructose can lead to a fatty liver, and in particular the build-up of belly fat.
It is the concentrated fructose (in sweets and fruit juices for example) that is so bad for you. Fruit also contains fructose, but the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, moisture, and fiber in fruit counteract its harmful effects. So you can safely eat a piece of fruit or use fruit to sweeten dishes.
*Nutritional value: vitamins, minerals, and enzymes
With refined sugars and syrups, almost all vitamins, minerals and enzymes have been removed from the original product and only the pure sugar is left.
(a) Refined sugars include:
- Granulated sugar
- Cane sugar
- Pouring syrup
- Glucose fructose syrup
(b) **Unrefined sugars are for example:
- Palm sugar
- Coconut blossom sugar
- Raw honey
- Maple syrup
In unrefined sugars, you can still find vitamins, minerals, and enzymes from the products they are made of.
* Glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI) indicates how strongly your blood sugar rises when you have eaten a certain product. Every product has a GI value. Below a GI of 55, one speaks of a low glycemic index, above that of a high
Sweeteners with a low glycemic value are beneficial during weight loss. They prevent binge eating, stabilize blood sugar and ensure that you can burn faster.
*Which natural sweeteners are best to use?
The glycemic index and nutritional value determine how healthy a natural sweetener is. For example, unrefined sweeteners such as coconut blossom sugar are considered healthy because they are high in enzymes and minerals and have a low glycemic index.
- Raw organic honey
Raw organic honey is healthy. It has a medium-low GI, many beneficial enzymes, and bee pollen rich in minerals.
- Stevia: It is a healthy natural sweetener. Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana).
The leaves are ground and soaked in water. The resulting liquid is purified and dried, leaving you with stevia.
The surprising thing about stevia is that it is a natural sweetener, yet it is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia also contains hardly any calories and does not raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. This only applies to pure stevia without additives such as maltodextrin.
If you find stevia tastes bitter, try a different brand. The environment and condition in which the stevia plant is grown influences the taste.
- Unrefined syrups: Maple syrup, apple syrup, date syrup, and grain syrups contain good nutrients, but also have a high glycemic index.
They are also not very sweet, so you quickly use too much of them unnoticed. Therefore, use natural syrups in moderation.
- Refined sugars: Granulated sugar and cane sugar do not contain any vitamins, minerals or enzymes and allow your blood sugar to rise very quickly due to the high content of glucose.
Agave syrup is also refined sugar.
The high fructose content has a very negative effect on your liver and fat burning. Therefore avoid these refined sugars.
Summary: Healthy, natural sweeteners have a low glycemic index and contain vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Stevia, coconut blossom sugar, and palm sugar are healthy natural sweeteners.
Unrefined syrups have a high glycemic index and are best eaten in moderation. Avoid refined sugars: these contain no nutrients and cause your blood sugar to spike.
 Artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are not extracted from natural products but are made in laboratories and factories.
They provide fewer calories than regular sugar and are therefore often used in diet and diet products.
Artificial sweeteners can be divided into two categories: polyols and intensive sweeteners.
Polyols are non-intensive sweeteners and are about half as sweet to as sweet as sugar, but provide fewer calories.
Polyols are made industrially but are also found in natural products such as fruit.
Our body has poor digestion of polyols, which means that most of the calories from polyols are not absorbed.
You can recognize polyols by their name: it often ends with –ol, such as xylitol, maltitol, and sorbitol. However, sometimes they are listed under their E number.
The advantage of polyols is that they are not very harmful and provide few calories.
The downside is that it can irritate your intestinal system and lead to bloating intestinal cramps, and flatulence.
It can also have a laxative effect. It is therefore advisable to eat polyols in moderation.
Xylitol is an exception: this is the healthiest polyol and you can safely take it. Xylitol is found in many fruits and is even produced by our own bodies.
Like stevia, your body does not produce insulin with xylitol.
Xylitol even has health benefits: it inhibits the growth of bacteria in your mouth, which is why most chewing gums are sweetened with xylitol.
Finally, xylitol improves the absorption of calcium and thus counteracts osteoporosis. Large amounts of xylitol can irritate your gut, so don’t overuse it.
The best-known artificial sweeteners are intensive sweeteners, also called synthetic sweeteners. They are about 50 to 30,000 times sweeter than sugar and contain hardly any calories.
The best-known intensive sweetener is aspartame.
Much research has been done into the effect of intensive sweeteners on health. No negative effects were found in a number of these studies.
Yet there are still numerous complaints about sweeteners that we should not ignore.
Common complaints about intensive sweeteners are bloating, headaches, stomach aches, and even feelings of depression.
The sweeteners, just like sugar, cause a high rise and fall in your blood sugar and insulin levels. We strongly recommend not to eat or drink intensive sweeteners.
Summary: Artificial sweeteners are divided into polyols and intensive sweeteners.
You can eat polyols in moderation, with xylitol being safe to use as a sweetener. Avoid intensive sweeteners: these have a negative effect on your body and mental health.
 List of healthy and unhealthy sweeteners.
|Can you use it safely?
|Unrefined Sugars:||Unrefined Syrups:||Intensive Sweeteners:|
|Coconut blossom sugar
|– Apple syrup
– Date syrup
– Rice syrup
– Spelled syrup
– (Barley) malt syrup
– Sugar beet syrup
Polyols, except xylitol
|– Acesulfame-K (E950)
– Advantame (E969)
– Aspartame (E951)
– Cyclamate (E952)
– Neohesperidin (E959)
– Neotame (E961)
– Saccharin (E954)
– Sucralose (E955)
– granulated sugar
– cane sugar
– Powdered sugar
– Caster sugar
– Pouring syrup
– Glucose-fructose syrup
– Jelly sugar
– Agave syrup
– Corn syrup
In the list below you can find which sweeteners you can use safely, which you should use in moderation and which you should absolutely avoid.
Unrefined natural sweeteners are generally the safest and healthiest to use, while intensive artificial sweeteners are very unhealthy and even harmful.
Pay attention to this when choosing a sweetener or sweetener and keep your body healthy and in balance.
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