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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Sweeteners >>  Sugars And Sweeteners

Natural Sugar Substitute | Alternative Sweeteners For Safe Sweetness

What is sugar? It is the generic name given to a class of carbohydrates which are easily metabolized.

The different types of natural sugars are:

Sucrose – obtained from sugar beet or sugar cane
Lactose or milk sugar – found in milk
Maltose or malt sugar - found in malted starch.
Fructose or fruit sugar – found in fruits
Glucose or dextrose – found in grapes

The first sugar to be used as a sweetener came from sugar cane. It is known to have been cultivated and refined in eastern Asia. Later, it came to Europe, but only the very rich could afford it. The discovery of the more affordable beet sugar made its use more widespread.

Increased sugar consumption however, has led to an increase of problems like obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.

What Are Natural And Artificial Sweeteners?

Natural sweeteners are made from plant or herb extracts. Maple syrup, corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, rice syrup are popular because they are thought to contain more nutrition than sugar. Fruits like dates and kiwis are also dried and ground to form natural sweeteners. However, heavy consumption of these also has ill effects on health. You must also ensure that you have organic varieties of these sweeteners; otherwise there may be heavy contamination with pesticides.

Artificial sweeteners are organic compounds, which have greater sweetening strength than sugar but have fewer calories and low energy value, or none at all. Some of them also remain unused and unchanged when excreted from the body. A few others are made up of amino-acids and are digested like protein.

Some of the sweeteners in use are Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Cyclamate, Saccharin, Thaumatin and Neohesperidin DC. The first four are also popular as table-top sweeteners.

Cyclamate is roughly 35 times sweeter than an equal amount of sugar, Acesulfame-K is around 200 times, and Saccharin about 450 times. That is why only a tiny amount is needed for sweetening purposes, and the calories in that portion are negligible.

Side effects: Sugar substitutes and sweeteners are supposed to be better for the teeth, because they do not form acid-forming bacteria in the mouth which attack the teeth. But excess consumption of sugar substitutes can have a laxative effect because of the ingredients in it.

Artificial sweeteners are preferred by diabetics because although they provide a sweet taste, they do not raise the levels of glucose in the blood.

However, the safety features of such sweeteners have always courted controversy. Research is still inconclusive, but some of them are thought to have dangerous toxins which cause serious after-effects. While some are said to be carcinogenic, others are said to cause problems as varied as allergic reactions, headaches, and damage to the immune and nervous systems because they lead to accumulation of formaldehyde in the tissues and brain.

Submitted on September 8, 2009