There are sweeteners considered “natural” because they are processed directly from naturally occurring plants such as sugar from sugar cane and maple syrup from the maple tree. Though these sweeteners are semi-natural sweeteners and therefore not as harmful as the list of artificial sweeteners from the first blog, they can still harm your body. They raise your blood sugar level bringing about insulin resistance which leads to diabetes. This rapid raising and lowering of your blood sugar stresses the body and weakens it in its fight against the pollutants and stressors in our lives. Considering the incredible effort it takes to mill and process such sweeteners, we may assume we were never meant to eat the large quantities of these sugars we are consuming today. Unfortunately, the processing of such sugars has become a cheap means to add fillers to processed foods so they are prevalent in modern foodstuffs. It is best to avoid these sugars and definitely limit their use in your daily diet. Read your food and product labels—these can be hidden in the most surprising foods!
- Sucrose: White table sugar. Good for hummingbirds (the only sugar recommended for these birds by ornithologists), bad for humans. Nothing of value in this substance. As Bruce Pacetti, DDS stated, “It’s almost as if the devil sat down and listed all the criteria of a substance man could use to destroy himself. It would have to be pleasing to the eye and taste. It would have to be pure white and easily available. It would have to appeal to all the people of this world. The destroying effects would have to be subtle and take such a long time that very few would realize what was happening until it was too late. The cruelest criteria of all are it would have to be supported and distributed by the kindest, well—meaning people to the most innocent people.” So true!
- Rapadura and Sucanat: Both of these substances are sugars and the body treats them the same as it does the sucrose, or white table sugar mentioned above. The difference between these sugars and the usual sugar one purchases at the grocery store is that a small amount of trace minerals remains. These minerals existed in the sugar cane syrup that the Rapadura and Sucanat were processed from. Both of these sugars are much less processed than traditional white sugar.
- Lactose: Milk sugar. Naturally occurring and not a problem for most people (even those who believe themselves to be lactose-intolerant) in raw milk.
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is not a good sweetener for us. This is not just because it comes from corn which is most likely genetically modified. It’s because fructose, which doesn’t show on blood sugar level tests (it only shows glucose), also causes insulin resistance and increases your likelihood of developing diabetes. In addition, most products use a high concentration (50% and 52% pure fructose) in their products. This is too much for your body to process all at one time.
- Agave nectar: Produced in Mexico and South Africa from the agave plant. Unfortunately, though advertised as a healthy alternative, agave nectar is higher in fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It’s actually the only sweetener that is worse than high-fructose corn syrup. Standard agave nectars are between about 50% and 58% fructose. When you buy a confection—cookie, cake, muffin—containing agave nectar, that concentration could be as high as 75% to 90% pure fructose.
- Honey: One of the better sweeteners on this list due to the pollen, propolis, and royal jelly it contains. However, it is still very concentrated and should be used in moderation. When purchasing honey be sure to get unheated and unfiltered. The jar may say raw, but FDA standards allow the designation of “raw” to foods that have been heated to 160°F. The health benefits of honey heated to such a high temperature are lost, as enzymes cannot survive this level of heat. Because of its anti-infective properties, honey makes a good anti-bacterial dressing for wounds.
- Molasses, Sorghum, Rice Syrup, and Barley Malt: These are all natural sweeteners but they are made through unnatural means resulting in products with high amounts of sugars that negatively affect your blood sugar levels. Depending on how they are processed, they can contain a high amount of minerals. This is especially true for molasses, which is made by stripping a harvested sugar plant of its leaves, mashing it and boiling down the resulting juice. Sorghum syrup is made by squeezing the juice out of cane sorghum and boiling down the juice so a concentrated syrup results. Rice syrup, which is also known as brown rice syrup is made by culturing cooked rice which breaks down the starches, then cooking down the resulting liquid until it is of a syrupy consistency. Barley malt syrup is made by sprouting then drying barley grains, and then slowly cooking the grain until a syrup is formed.
All of these sweeteners are made by cooking existing grasses and grains into concentrated amounts of sugars, rather than keeping these foods in their natural state.
Before we move on to the sweeteners that don’t harm the body let’s take a quick look at sugar alcohols.
- Sugar alcohols: The name “sugar alcohols” is a bit of a misnomer because they aren’t the type of alcohol we are accustomed to thinking of. It’s not going to get you high; it’s not that kind of alcohol. They are good alternatives to the sweeteners mentioned in this blog and the prior sweeteners blog. However, they should be used in moderation because they can cause loose stool, diarrhea, gastro-intestinal response, gas, bloating, etc. The sugar alcohols sorbitol and maltitol, have been used in dietetic and diabetic candies for at least 50 years. Xylitol and erythritol are much newer on the market. These don’t cause the level of digestive issues as sorbitol and maltitol. And xylitol has been shown to be an antibacterial when used in gums and mints. Because it’s in granular form, it’s great in recipes as a substitute for sugar. When looking for products using these sweeteners, be sure to read the back of the package under Ingredients. Very often the front of the package will state that the product was made with Xylitol, but when you read the back you find that, in fact, it is sweetened with not only Xylitol but also aspartame, sucralose, etc. Much of the Xylitol extracted is from genetically modified corn and therefore many people have allergic reactions to it. It can be purchased at most health food stores, but the best and safest form (along with erythritol) is sold by Xylitol USA.
Some of the tribes Dr. Price studied used unrefined, natural sweeteners in small amounts. The key to maintaining the radiant health these tribes possessed is to use small amounts of sugars as opposed to the upwards of ninety pounds of sugar consumed by Americans every year. Some of the tribes possessed no sweeteners in their diets. As Dr. Price wrote in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, “There is very little of the body building materials in maple syrup and cane syrup from sugar or honey.” The PPNF sweetener rule of thumb is to use as little sugar as possible.
Our next blog will feature sweeteners that are not harmful to the body and have no side effects. These are your ideal sweeteners.