Many experts believe sugar consumption to be the major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
Just because a sweetener is classified as clean does not mean they are healthy, especially if used in excess.
Almost all sweeteners cause blood sugar to spike. Some less than others but this spike in blood sugar which is measured by the glycemic index causes inflammation, the potential to cause weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Consumed in moderation, the belief is that they will not cause most people any harm.
We will look at the processing to determine if it is clean and list the glycemic index (GI) both of which should be considered when making the right choice.
Even though some list healthy vitamins and minerals, the negative effects of a high GI overshadow the minimal amount of nutrients you see listed.
You would be wise to cut back dramatically on all sweeteners as much as possible.
If you are going to use a sweetener choose the one from the clean list. They have no chemicals, have not been chemically processed, and some contain beneficial nutrients that are good for us.
Used in moderation they are fine and considered clean.
We all need a little sweetness in our life.
#1 Fruit(GI varies depending on the type of fruit)
Using fruit in your baked goods adds moisture, sweetness, and nutrients. Use bananas, dates, apples, pears, etc.
Add fresh strawberries, mango, or other sweet fruit to your unsweetened yogurt.
#2 Monk Fruit: (GI 0, calories 0)
What? Wait, zero? Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. There is really nothing bad to report about this one. Mind you it has not had robust human long term studies but it has been used for decades without any recorded problems. The one and only drawback I see at this time is that because it is extremely sweet(100- 250 times sweeter than sugar) many companies dilute it some by mixing in other types of sweeteners. The two that pass my “clean” test are Purisure as it is 100% pure Monck fruit and they use no pesticides or herbicides. The other one is Now Foods organic Monk fruit liquid sweetener. They use organic cane alcohol in very small amounts to temper the extreme sweetness. I think you would be fine with either of these.
#3 Yacon (GI 1)
yup this one is very exciting too. There are claims that yacon can help with weight loss, have health benefits for diabetics, those with kidney, and digestive disorders. It has been eaten and used for hundreds of years in South America for its medicinal benefits.
It has a high inulin content which is food for gut bacteria and serves as a prebiotic offering gut health benefits.
The processing is minimal and is comparable to maple syrup without the use of chemicals.
#4 Coconut/Palm Sugar(GI 35)
Making coconut sugar is a natural process, requiring no chemicals or processes that might degrade its nutrients. The sap is collected from coconut palm flowers and then heated until the water has evaporated.
It has a lovely toasty sweetness.
It does retain some nutrients like the minerals iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium, along with some short-chain fatty acids like polyphenols and antioxidants.
It also contains a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar
Use this the same way you would use white table sugar.
#5 Date Sugar (GI 46 – 55 depending on the type of date used)
Basically dried dates that are pulverized in a granular product that looks like unrefined sugar. It does not dissolve very well in drinks but works well in baking and to sprinkle on things like oatmeal. It has been noted to be not as sweet as other sweeteners.
#6 Date Syrup (GI 47)
This is a great option for sweetening coffee or milk or drizzling on your oatmeal. It is not quite as sweet as honey and has the same nutrient profile as the fruit minus the fiber benefit.
#7 Honey(GI 50)
Honey is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-septic. It also has trace amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and more.
Honey is sweeter than white sugar and has a lower glycemic index.
Use honey to bake with and to sweeten your coffee and yogurt.
#8 Maple syrup(GI 54)
Like honey, this syrup has been used for a very long time. It has a wonderful flavor and the processing is minimal. Just boiled down until it thickens.
#9 Blackstrap molasses (GI 55):
The end product after boiling cane sugar. The first batch is cane syrup, then molasses, then blackstrap molasses.
This end product delivers some very healthy nutrients.
- vitamin B6
Remember though that it has a GI of 55 so using it in moderation is recommended.
#10 Turbinado Sugar (GI 65)- partially refined cane sugar. Some of the molasses has been left. Not as overly processed as regular cane sugar.
Not Clean Sweeteners
#1 White Sugar(GI 65)
Highly processed. Approximately 60% is made from sugar beets which are GMO and contain glyphosates aka Roundup.
#2 All Artificial Sweeteners(GI 0)
These are chemicals and/or chemically processed-Need I say more?
- Acesulfame Potassium – Sunnett, Sweet One
- Aspartame – Nutrasweet, Equal
- Neotame – N/A
- Saccharin – Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin
- Sucralose – Splenda
- Stevia/Rebaudioside – A Sweet Leaf, Sun Crystals, Steviva, Truvia, PureVia
#3 Brown Rice Syrup: GI(98)
You will probably see this on several processed “health foods”. Sounds much better than high fructose corn syrup doesn’t it?
Well, although it may be promoted as healthy it has a higher glycemic index(GI) than white sugar. It comes in at a whopping 98 out of 100! This will cause a huge spike in blood sugar and if consumed on a regular basis will lead to weight gain and ultimately other health problems like heart disease and diabetes.
#5 Allulose(GI 0):
Made by breaking corn down into starch and fructose. The fructose is then converted into allulose via an enzymatic process using enzymes from a genetically engineered microbe. But… they don’t have to list it as GMO because the enzymes are only used as an aid in the processing and not as the actual product. This product will be used more and more in products so the amount of sugar on the label can be decreased. It makes it look much healthier.
#6 Agave (GI 15):
The processing destroys any healthy nutrients that were in the plant. Leaving an extremely high fructose product similar to high fructose corn syrup.
If there are other sweeteners you use or would like more information about please leave a comment below.
I hope this list is helpful on your journey to better health.