What Sweeteners Are Safe (Part 2)?

In one of my most popular articles from 2014, what sweeteners are safe, I got a lot of great feedback. But there were also questions remaining about a few other sweeteners. So I’ll address 3 more sweeteners in this article: xylitol, erythritol and coconut sugar.


Original source: here.

Xylitol and Erythritol 

Xylitol and erythritol are natural sugar alcohols (sorry, it won’t get you buzzed though. This isn’t the same alcohol as in wine or beer) that are found in things like berries, beets, and other sources.

The reason they’re gaining such a great reputation in the health food industry is because they don’t raise blood sugar. So on a low-carbohydrate diet, this tends to be a favourable sweetener, because it satisfies your sweet tooth, without going to your love handles.

There are also downsides to xylitol and erythritol. For one, is that it usually comes from corn, one of the most genetically modified organisms (GMOs) there is. Yes, it can be found in berries, and other sources, but because corn is a much cheaper source, that’s where it usually comes from. This isn’t an article about GMOs, so I won’t go into that.

Another potential downside is that in some people, xylitol and erythritol can cause digestive issues (know what I’m saying?). It brings a lot of water to the small intestine, and then… bad things happen (again, know what I’m saying?). Although it seems that erythritol is better tolerated than xylitol.

Lastly, if you have acid reflux (that’s things like indigestion and heartburn), xylitol and erythritol may make it worse.

We also don’t really know the long-term effects of using xylitol.

So for the time being, I’ll say that it’s better than table sugar, and even agave nectar/syrup. But it still doesn’t beat the gold standard: no sweetener.

Coconut Sugar 

Here is another sweetener that is a quickly-rising darling in the natural health world. But I think the enthusiasm is still unjustified.

The claim is that it doesn’t raise blood sugar because it comes from a natural source. Well, as I pointed out in my article “is natural automatically healthy?”, just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. After all, agave nectar is natural… but it isn’t healthy, since it’s almost pure fructose.

Many claims are made based on one factor alone. When it comes to sugar substitutes, the health claims are made simply based on a sugar’s ability to raise blood sugar. But as we see with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, just because it doesn’t raise blood sugar, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Aspartame indeed doesn’t raise blood sugar. But it sure can damage your brain.

Likewise, with coconut sugar, it appears to be healthy, but at this point in time, a search on Pubmed (the U.S. National Library or Medicine) yielded very little data about either the benefits or the drawbacks of coconut sugar.

So as it stands right now, coconut sugar is still a big mystery. There are a lot of claims being made, but none of them are proven (or unproven) yet. 

The Gold Standard 

As I concluded in part 1 of this article, the gold standard is still no sweetener.

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