So, remember all of the artificial sweeteners out there on the market? How do you feel about still using them, including aspartame?
Now we’re going to take a look at some more popular sweeteners. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of all of them, but perhaps you may learn something new about them though. Well, that’s my hope anyway….:)
Below is what you need to know about these 5 sweeteners in particular: high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, xylitol, and stevia.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
High-fructose corn syrup is a caloric sweetener derived from corn. In most cases the corn has been genetically modified. It gained popularity as a sweetener because it is cheaper to produce. It was granted “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status by the FDA in 1983.
Obesity has been linked to increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, but with so many bad food choices on the market today obesity can’t be blamed on this one substance.
Also, high levels of fructose (HFCS is 55% fructose) has been associated with chromium loss (which is involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism) as well as potentially dangerous consequences for the liver. Too much buildup of fructose can turn into what’s known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, because the liver looks just like what happens in the livers of people who drink too much alcohol.
High-fructose corn syrup, believe it or not, can be found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. Take a look at your favorite foods, you may be surprised where you find it. These foods should be drastically reduced, if not avoided, as much as possible.
According to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), any product that’s gone through the ultra-filtering process and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey.
Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated and sometimes watered down, then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen – however, once the pollen is removed from the product you are no longer able to tell the origin of the honey, which could be a problem because a lot of honey comes from China.
Honey from China has been known to contain illegal antibiotics. But, grocery stores and other places prefer ultra filtered honey because it looks clearer and lasts longer on the shelves. Raw honey, the honey that does contain pollen, has medicinal benefits. You, unfortunately, cannot go by the label on the jar as it has often been confirmed as incorrect through testing. It seems your best bet in buying any form of honey is through a farmer’s market, a local co-op, and natural health food stores.
Agave nectar is produced from the agave plant. Agave itself is a natural substance, but the form you see on store shelves has been processed to a syrup or nectar. Ironically, the process to get it to the form on store shelves is the same as high fructose corn syrup.
Agave nectar is found in foods labeled as organic or raw, including ketchup, ice cream, chocolate and health food bars. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not a significant amount. Because agave nectar contains high levels of manufactured fructose, it is best to eat in moderation to prevent any health problems associated with high levels of fructose consumption.
Because of the high amount of saponins, agave nectar should be avoided during pregnancy as it may increase the chance of a miscarriage, due to the disruption of red blood cells. Saponins are phytochemicals which can be found in most vegetables, beans, and herbs. They provide many health benefits normally, but in the case of pregnancy high amounts are said to be avoided.
Even though there’s controversy surrounding it, some people still find agave nectar as an option for occasional use or when combined with other sweeteners, especially for those that require a low glycemic option.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol found in some fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body, but the xylitol found on food labels goes through a long-tedious manufacturing process. It is not as sweet as sugar is and is often added to foods that have been sweetened with aspartame to mask the bitter taste (think “sugar-free” candy and chewing gum).
Xylitol, like all sugar alcohols, does not get absorbed by the body. Not getting absorbed by the body means consuming too much may or may not result in abdominal gas and diarrhea. However, pure xylitol tends to not be a problem.. You may see xylitol in products like toothpaste, since it has been shown to help prevent cavities.
Because xylitol contains fewer calories than sugar, products containing it are allowed to carry weight loss claims.
Stevia, also known as honeyleaf and sweetleaf. Unfortunately, the FDA only recognizes stevia extract as GRAS, since they have not approved whole-leaf Stevia. However, the whole leaf form is completely safe and is the form that contains the healing properties.
It is 30-40 times sweeter than sugar, but refining the stevia leaf produces a white powder extract (called stevioside) which makes it 100-300 times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia does not affect blood sugar, due to its zero glycemic index , and is good for people who want to lose weight since it contains no calories.
Do you consume any of these sweeteners?
Resources for You
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain’t
The Weston A. Price Foundation: The Murky World of High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Food Safety News: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey. Ultra-filtering Removes Pollen, Hides Honey Origins
The Weston A. Price Foundation: Agave: Nectar of the Gods? & Xylitol: Is It Beneficial, or Even Safe?
Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School. Abundance of fructose not good for the liver, heart
Dr. Mercola. The 4 Best, and 3 Worst, Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen
Jody @EasyPeasyMom says
Great info as always! I am still shocked at the amount of things I find HFCS in! It is definitely scary but luckily there are much safer alternatives to these artificial sweeteners! Thanks for sharing!
Hi Jody! It IS scary that HFCS can be hiding in pretty much everything you pick up. Very very sneaky……
Cheryl Smith says
Thank you for this wonderful information. I have also found that when I buy LOCAL honey, I don’t get sick. We are blessed to have a place about 45 miles from us that mass-produces honey, and they distribute their products into certain local stores. I have tried agave nectar and stevia, too. I find stevia to be almost too sweet…but it is good to know that it is a good sugar alternative. I so appreciate all of the information you share here. You are a blessing to me! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and trust God blesses you and your family with a happy, healthy Christmas season!
Hi Cheryl!!!! I’ve missed you! I’m glad you have a place to buy your honey. I did have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope yours was wonderful, too! I wish you and your family well this Christmas!
Richetta Blackmon says
I am really bummed about the honey and agave I thought I was doing something. What are we to do about sweetener….especially coffee?
Hi Richetta – don’t be bummed. The honey you can still use, you just have to find a good brand that’s all. I personally never used agave, but it’s not a totally bad choice. It’s just something that you would probably use on a limited basis. Try using whole leaf liquid stevia or raw organic honey in your coffee. Even pure maple syrup might work.