Folks, as I mentioned last week, this month marks an important milestone for me—the 20th anniversary of my newsletter, Health & Healing. As part of that celebration, I’ve published a list of 20 ways to improve your health.
Number 13 on that list is “avoid sugar (sucrose) and artificial sweeteners and use natural alternatives such as stevia and xylitol instead.”
I must say, we sure are a sugar-hungry nation. On average, Americans consume 22.2 teaspoons of sugars a day, which adds up to 355 calories of sugar alone! That’s 20 percent more than we were eating 35 years ago—and it’s showing up in our hips and waistlines, blood sugar and blood pressure, and overall health.
One of the biggest offenders is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). There’s even talk of an “anti-obesity” tax on this ubiquitous product, which has overtaken sucrose (white sugar) as the sweetener of choice in drinks and prepared foods. In fact, most of the excess sugars Americans consume are in beverages and processed foods.
So the next time you have a hankering for a soda or some convenience food or snack, think again. And don’t believe that HFCS-free products sweetened with “natural” sugars or fruit concentrates—or pure, concentrated fruit juice, for that matter—are any better. The end result, in terms of calories and fructose delivery, is pretty much the same.
Fortunately, there are safe sweeteners:
* Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), a plant native to South America, has a centuries-long history of use as both a flavoring and a therapeutic agent. As a sweetener, it’s about as good as they come, as it is calorie-free and does not affect blood sugar levels. Just a few drops of a liquid concentrate or a dusting of powdered stevia is all you need to lend sweetness to any food or drink. Stevia is the sweetener of choice at the Whitaker Wellness Institute and it should be your go-to sweetener as well.
* Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, in the same category as sorbitol and mannitol. This sweetener looks and tastes like sucrose, so it’s a “comfortable” sugar substitute and can be used in baking and the like. Although xylitol is not calorie-free, it is metabolized much more slowly than regular sugar and has an extremely low glycemic index, so it is safe for people with diabetes. It also has 40 percent fewer calories than sugar. (Note: Some people are sensitive to sugar alcohols and large doses can cause gastrointestinal distress.)
Both stevia and xylitol can be found in most health food stores and through several online retailers.
Now it’s your turn: Have you found ways to eliminate sugar from your diet?
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