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Sweeteners: Feed's All You Need Guide

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Sweeteners are a staple for most of us in our diets. Whether you have a sweet tooth or just enjoy some sugar in your morning coffee or tea, sweeteners likely are used in so much of what you eat daily! Did you know, though, that it is also one of the most commonly harvested and consumed resources in the world? According to Statista, 178.84M metric tons of sugar are estimated to be consumed worldwide this year. Additionally, according to the Bee Health Collective, United States honey production totaled 157M lbs and was more popularly consumed than sugar within the U.S. markets in 2018.

There is much to be learned about the sweeteners available to enjoy. Honey and sugar are just two of the many available sweeteners on the market and, depending on your health goals and preferences, there may be a sweetener out there that you may be missing out on! For today’s Pop All You Need Guide, we are giving you the lowdown on the sweeteners you can enjoy and provide some insight into the good (and not-so-good) of some of the most popular forms on the market today.

Sugar

White sugar (or table sugar) is most likely the most well-known and widely available sweetener you’ll find in most kitchens around the globe. Its versatility and abundance allow for it to be a perfect addition to any food or drink, whether it be for sauces, savory dishes, or even your everyday iced coffee. This sweetener, according to MasterClass, is made from sugar cane or beets that are boiled down to evaporate the water from the juice they produce. Then this raw sugar is spun at high speeds to clarify the sugar and remove the molasses. Finally, they filter it to remove impurities and then whiten it more to create the sugar you know and love.

While white sugar is the term that is most commonly used and known to encompass all types of sugars, there are actually four main types of table sugar that are available and used today.

  • Granulated sugar
  • Superfine sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Sugar cubes

Each of these forms is used differently in cooking and in eating; likely if you bake, you’ve used superfine sugar or powdered sugar in many of your recipes. There isn’t much difference between these, rather it is just how they are ground up or packed together (looking at you, sugar cubes). It is noted that eating too much sugar, according to Harvard, can take you down a bad path, so it is very important to watch the sugar you consume each day to help prevent any health conditions from developing. Consuming too much added sugar can contribute to heart disease, weight gain, and even fatty liver disease, and can put you on the path to a heart attack or stroke. Remember to use any sweetener, including sugar, in moderation and substitute other foods in your diet to satisfy that sweet tooth, like fruits or even many vegetables as well.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar, the other form of sugar used widely throughout the world, isn’t actually too far off from its white sugar counterpart. In fact, there is not much of a difference between the two; according to Food Insight, the only difference is that brown sugar contains molasses, the component that gives the sugar its distinct flavor, color, and moisture. Brown sugar makes for a wonderful use in a variety of dishes, from boba to your barbeque marinade, and is widely available in cultures globally.

Sugar Alternatives (Splenda, Stevia)

Nowadays, many who are looking for a healthier alternative to sugars commonly enjoyed today reach for Splenda or Stevia as a way to get a sweet taste without having to break their calorie goals. Splenda, according to Healthline, has been around in the markets since 1998 and is the most common low-calorie sweetener available to purchase. It is made from digestible sweeteners added to sucralose and is often available in small packets, but also exists in powdered, granulated, and even liquid form. Stevia, on the other hand, is a highly processed type of sweetener made from a refined stevia extract called rebaudioside A. It is noted that stevia is approximately 200x sweeter than sugar, while Splenda is 450-650x sweeter than sugar! These sweeteners, according to the Cleveland Clinic, are highly recommended by dieticians, though, and are recommended for prediabetics or diabetics as a sweetener alternative that won’t raise blood sugars immediately.

Agave and Honey

Agave

Agave, a sweetener that has gained more popularity in recent years, is a sweetener that is often recommended for people who have diabetes. According to Very Well Health, agave is lower on the glycemic index, making it (at face) a good alternative to sugar for diabetes while still being a sweetener comparable to sugar. Agave syrup, according to Precision Nutrition, is made from the agave plant’s sap that is harvested, and then heated to concentrate the sugars. 

While it has been advertised as a healthy alternative to normal white sugar, it may actually be more harmful to the body. Very Well Health notes that when fructose, a simple sugar found in fruits and vegetables, is highly processed, it can be harmful to the body when consumed in large amounts. It has been found that fructose metabolizes in the liver which turns excess into triglycerides, leading to a number of chronic diseases and illnesses. Additionally, it is also noted that agave contains more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, and fruit, making it a less healthy choice at the end of the day.

Honey

Honey is one of those sweeteners that remind you of your childhood. It’s a sweetener that’s consumed all around the world and makes for a great alternative to table sugar (when eaten raw of course!). Enjoying raw honey can actually have a number of health benefits, but it is to be noted that it is different than regular honey which is filtered or pasteurized and loses a lot of its goodness. Raw honey, according to Real Simple, has antibacterial properties, making it a great treatment for a wound or infection! Additionally, raw honey is rich in antioxidants that can help protect your body from free radicals and, in turn, prevent many different health conditions that are caused as a result of oxidation. Incorporating raw honey into your diet still requires you to be conscious of the amount you are using (about 1-2 teaspoons daily is recommended); honey is high in fructose and can contribute to liver issues when eaten in too large of quantities. 

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