Friday, September 23, 2011

How Sweet it ISN'T! What OMNI Medical Center Thinks You Should Know About Sweeteners

We all know that sugar in large amounts is bad for us, and even worse for anyone trying to lose weight.

So in place of sugar, most of us have learned to acquire the taste for artificial sweeteners and/or sugar substitutes (we keep Stevia in the OMNI Medical Center break room) .

But given all the marketing hype behind different "natural" alternatives, it's hard to know which ones really are the best sweeteners. 

So here's a list OMNI Medical Center found regarding the best and worst substitutes for sugar: 

Bad Sweetener #1: Aspartame
There's conflicting evidence regarding the safety of aspartame, a common chemical sweetener used in diet soda and other low-cal or low-sugar goods, but some people report headaches or generally feeling unwell after ingesting anything containing the chemical. To make life easier for everyone, this is one instance where you may want to follow the "better safe than sorry" principle. That's because a University of Liverpool test-tube study found that when mixed with a common food color ingredient, aspartame actually became toxic to brain cells. Making matters worse, aspartame is used in many diet sodas, and studies have found drinking diet soda may increase your risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Also of concern with aspartame, researchers have found that one harmful breakdown product is formaldehyde. Sweet? OMNI Medical Center doesn't think so.

Bad Sweetener #2: Agave
While your local health food store likely stocks agave sweeteners, it may be best to keep them out of your cart. Many agave nectars are made up of 70 to 80 percent fructose—that's more than what's found in high-fructose corn syrup! If you don't want to give up agave, look for types that contain no more than 30 to 40 percent fructose.

Bad Sweetener #3: Sucralose
While sucralose, better known by its brand name, Splenda, may originate with sugar, the end product is anything but natural. It's processed using chlorine, and researchers are finding that the artificial sweetener is passing through our bodies and winding up in wastewater treatment plants, where it can't be broken down. Tests in Norway and Sweden found sucralose in surface water released downstream from treatment discharge sites. Scientists worry it could change organisms' feeding habits and interfere with photosynthesis, putting the entire food chain at risk. 

Good Sweetener #1: Stevia
Stevia is becoming recognized as one of the safest sweeteners on the market. All types of stevia are extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant, but some forms taste better than others (OMNI Medical Center likes Now Foods Stevia).People tend to overuse powders, in which the sweetness is really concentrated, so if you've tried powders in the past and didn't like them, try liquid forms of a liquid stevia sweetener product instead.

Good Guy #2: Sugar alcohols (in small amounts only!)
Popular sugar alcohol sweeteners include xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol, natural sweeteners made through a fermentation process of corn or sugar cane. They contain fewer calories than sweeteners like pure sugar and honey, but more than stevia. Just don't overdo it—too much (as in more than 5g per sitting) can cause gas, bloating, and even GI distress.

Good Sweetener #3: Organic, raw local honey (in small amounts as well)
While honey does boast higher fructose levels, it also contains a bounty of cancer-defending antioxidants, and local honey has been said to help alleviate allergy symptoms. Don't limit raw honey's use to your tea, either. Use it to speed healing on burns, and as a natural antiseptic on cuts and scrapes. Honey also has a low glycemic index, so adding it to your tea or yogurt won't lead to energy-busting blood sugar drops later in the day.

For more helpful nutritional tips or to learn about the OMNI Medical Center medical weight loss program visit our web site at:

Here's to a sweet weekend!
--The OMNI Medical Center Team

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