Doc, I Need Something Sweet! (Part 2)

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Sugar is BAD!

So what can we do to satisfy our sweet tooth without ruining our health?


Molasses is the nutritious part of the sugarcane that’s left behind when sugar is removed. It’s sweet, but also preserves iron, magnesium, potassium and B vitamins. Dark and blackstrap molasses have the highest antioxidant content of refined sugar alternatives. The amount of antioxidants in a serving of molasses is about equal to that in a serving of nuts or berries. Molasses may not spike blood glucose levels as much as regular sugar after a meal, but it still carries extra calories.

Monk fruit extract

Monk fruit extract comes from the fruit with the same name and is a zero-calorie option, It is high in antioxidants called mogrosides, and it tastes sweet—about 100 to 250 times sweeter than regular white sugar. It doesn’t appear to elevate blood sugar, making it a low-glycemic sweetener.

Date sugar

Date sugar is made by grinding down the whole fruit. It contains all of the date’s nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Date sugar, with 10 calories per teaspoon, has one third fewer calories than regular sugar, and it also adds potassium and fiber to the diet.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is less refined, so it retains the minerals (iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium) found in the sap of the coconut palm tree from which it’s made. Coconut sugar looks and tastes like regular brown sugar, but it has a lower glycemic index (35) compared with ordinary sugar (65). Coconut sugar also contains inulin, a type of prebiotic, soluble fiber that can slow the absorption of food in the gastrointestinal tract and blunt the post-meal blood sugar spike.

Erythriol / Xylitol

These are sugar alcohols that are useful for individuals with diabetes who want to eat sweet food. Erythritol is found in fermented foods and fruits and have a mild flavor and it’s also calorie-free. Xylitol occurs naturally in birch and some other plants and it’s about as sweet as table sugar, but has about three-quarters of the calories. Because the sugar alcohols have fewer calories, they affect blood glucose less than regular sugar. But they still contain carbohydrates, calories, so they shouldn’t be considered a guilt-free food. Also, be aware that sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect in some people.

Stevia leaf extracts

Stevia-based sweeteners is a natural sweetener that’s extracted from the leaves of a South American shrub known scientifically as Stevia rebaudiana. It contains zero calories and has no known links to weight gain. Not only is Stevia considered safe, it’s also linked to some health benefits. Several studies show that stevioside, which is one of the sweet compounds in Stevia, can lower high blood pressure by 6–14%

It has also been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, which may help fight diabetes. It’s worth noting that the two different sweet compounds extracted from the Stevia plant — stevioside and rebaudioside A — have slightly different taste.

Typically available in powder or liquid form, products labeled “stevia” may contain either or both of these compounds in varying amounts.

Naturals: Raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, raw sugar

Natural sweeteners provide a few more nutrients than table sugar. Raw honey contains antioxidants, vitamins E and C as well as minerals, and pure maple syrup contains antioxidants. Both have prebiotic oligosaccharides that help to feed gut flora.

Agave nectar — marketed as a safe alternative to sugar for those with diabetes — provides fewer nutrients than raw honey or pure maple syrup. Agave nectar has a slightly lower glycemic index but does contain sugar, and will still spike your blood sugar.

Raw sugar has fewer nutrients than the other natural sweeteners. But — bottom line — when it comes to your metabolism, all natural sweeteners behave like sugar.

Yacon Syrup

Yacon syrup is extracted from the yacón plant, which is native to South America and known scientifically as Smallanthus sonchifolius. It tastes sweet, is dark in color and has a thick consistency similar to molasses. It can cause significant weight loss in overweight women. Yacon syrup contains 40–50% fructooligosaccharides, a prebiotic beneficial to our gut bacteria. It also contributes to a decrease in appetite by decreasing the hunger hormone ghrelin. Because these sugar molecules are not digested, yacon syrup contains one-third of the calories of regular sugar, or about 1.3 calories per gram.

Having healthy gut bacteria has been linked to a decreased risk of diabetes and obesity, improved immunity and better brain function. Yacon syrup is generally considered safe, but eating large amounts of it may lead to excess gas, diarrhea or general digestive discomfort. Another downside to yacon syrup is that you cannot cook or bake with it, as high temperatures break down the structure of the fructooligosaccharides. Instead, you can use yacon syrup to sweeten your coffee or tea, add it to salad dressings or stir it into oatmeal.

The best sweetener of all

The best way to sweeten food and drinks? Fresh or frozen fruit. Fruit is a sweetener without any empty calories. Sweeten your yogurt or smoothie with frozen fruit. Or add naturally sweet flavorings like vanilla or almond extract, cocoa powder and/or spices.

For more information on a healthy lifestyle, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski and Start Your Journey to Better Health Today! Tel 215-750-7000 or


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