These days, normal refined sugar seems so last year. This is hardly a surprise. Not only is it the plainest of sweetening options, but it is also one of the most vilified. This trend has led tens of millions of Americans to stock their pantries with alternatives to cane sugar ranging from the natural and organic to the artificial and chemical.
All of these options often lead to a very perplexed consumer. It leads to questions like what are the healthiest, what are the safest, and what are the cheapest? The answers are often far more complicated than the questions, but in an apples to apples comparison it is surprisingly easy to weed out the duds and find the ones that (at least for now) are comparatively healthy and safe to use.
Sweeteners to Avoid
For years, artificial sweeteners have been blamed for everything from obesity to cancer. Yet perhaps surprisingly, there are now all natural and organic sweeteners that are being marketed as healthy when in fact they are worse for you than cane sugar. Listed below are some of the sweetening alternatives, both artificial and natural, that you should avoid.
Aspartame has been one of the most controversial food additives in history. Because of this, it has also been one of the most extensively researched. Yet for all this research (decades and billions of dollars worth), there is still no clear conclusion on its safety.
It very obviously is not asbestos-caliber dangerous, yet it may still not be safe to consume in large quantities. Whether or not you believe that it is harmful or will indeed lead you to consume double the calories later, it is probably best to avoid this one as there are better options on the market.
One of the new crazes that can be found at your nearest grocery store is Agave sweeteners. These often claim to be all natural and organic, yet they are surprisingly very unhealthy. While there have been no claims of cancer inducing properties, these sweeteners are generally up to 80% fructose, which is worse than even High Fructose Corn Syrup. Avoid this one if you are watching your weight or are looking to sugar intake in general.
Sucralose, commonly found in products such as Splenda, has recently come under scrutiny. It claims to be natural and “made from sugar”, but it is actually highly processed via chemicals such as chlorine. Once it exits the body, where it is indigestible, it enters the water supply possibly altering the food chain as a whole.
Good Sweetening Alternatives
Stevia, which has been used worldwide for decades but has only recently made its way to the United States, seems to be the safest product currently on the market. It has zero calories and seems to bear no ill health effects. The only downside is that it does not work very well for baking.
Maybe the safest and healthiest alternative is organic and local honey. It contains high levels of sugar, but it also has health boosting antioxidants. It has a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar and cause you to store fat. If you purchase local honey, it may also help you with your seasonal allergies.