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What's a Good Sugar Substitute?

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Q: I'm Trying to Eat Less Sugar: What's a Good Substitute?

 

A: Stevia is a plant-based sweetener, obtained from a shrub native to Paraguay and a member of the chrysanthemum family. It reportedly has no negative effects on general health or organ function. It does not affect blood pressure, has no effect on blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, and has no adverse effects on reproductive health or the health of children.

As with all herbal extracts, products may vary widely, particularly as there are more than 200 varieties of the stevia plant. The makers of one of the new products (Truvia™) claim their proprietary process for isolating rebiana, the extract from the mother plant results in a superior sweetener without the aftertaste common to many stevia products. Still, the sweetener tastes best when added to citrus drinks; a winning cola formulation sweetened with rebiana has yet to be discovered.

During the extraction and isolation process of rebiana, the product has to survive a multitude of processes to arrive at its final form as a natural sweetener. So while rebiana may be considered by some to be a cut above wholly artificial sweeteners, whether it will be fully embraced by all as a natural sweetener remains to be seen.

Food for thought

When thinking about sugar alternatives, consider these points.

  • The glycemic index, a measure of the blood sugar-raising effects of a food, can vary widely by sugar type; palm sugar has a relatively low glycemic index of 35, compared with 64 for table sugar. While rebiana has no calories and boasts a zero on the glycemic index scale, it should be used in moderation since there are no long-term studies with large amounts.
  • Do you really need a sweetener at all? Sugar cravings can be a sign of an underlying nutrient deficiency. Check with your natural health care professional to see what your diet might be lacking that’s causing you to reach for sweets. Once you cut down on sugar-laden foods and drinks, the natural sweetness of other foods can come out. Many people find that a little fresh cream goes a long way towards taking the edge off the morning coffee.

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