Which sugar substitute is best for you?

Click to watch the report from Action News
November 14, 2013 8:43:08 PM PST
Walk into any coffee shop and you will find a variety of artificial sweeteners and some natural ones. What's the best for you may depend on your own state of health.

Archelle Patterson used to sweeten her food with white refined sugar until she had a change of heart.

"I wanted something healthier for myself and my family," Patterson said.

So she secretly switched to Agave Nectar. No one in her family noticed the difference.

"Well, I guess they are going to find out now," Patterson said.

We invited nutritionist Juliet Burgh of Unite Fitness to take us through other sugar substitutes - starting with some of the most popular artificial ones like Equal, Sweet-N-Low and Splenda.

They have zero calories, but Juliet isn't a fan of their chemicals.

"It's not natural to the body, we don't even know where the body stores these chemicals," Burgh said.

Still they're approved by the FDA and there is no evidence they cause long term health problems.

But Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a weight loss specialist, says for some people, artificial sweeteners can increase cravings for more sweets.

"Some people are able to calm their sweet tooth by using artificial sweeteners and thus avoid sugar, other people will drink a Diet Coke and then want a pint of Ben and Jerry's," Seltzer said.

Which category you fall into and your current weight, he says, should determine which sweetener is best for you.

If you are at a healthy weight, he says natural is better.

If not, Dr. Seltzer recommends a no calorie substitute, provided it won't spark cravings.

"Because the chances of dying from obesity are a lot higher than your chance of getting some weird illness from an artificial sweetener," Seltzer said.

As for the natural options, Juliet says Sugar in the Raw is better than the white stuff.

"This is what's coming from the plant, so this still gives you the blood sugar spike, but it's more natural, there's no chemical additives," Burgh said.

Sugar in the Raw and other natural alternatives do have calories.

"This is where it gets a little scary for some people," Burgh said.

But she says with Agave Nectar, honey and maple syrup, you only need a little which shouldn't cause weight gain.

Nectresse is a brand new low calorie option, said to be made from monk fruit and a sugar alcohol. Juliet says it is better than refined sugar, but not yet at the top of her list.

For baking, she likes pure maple syrup or coconut palm sugar.

Overall, she says Stevia and Truvia are the best options.

Dr. Seltzer also puts Stevia on top. It is both natural, it comes from a plant, and has no calories.

We also asked Archelle to try some of these other options. Like many people she didn't like the taste of Stevia.

Juliet says you have to experiment a bit and give your body time to adjust.

However, if you are diabetic, you should look for an option that won't spike your blood sugar, one of the artificial or other no calorie sweeteners.


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